The Primary Source Librarian

Dedicated to Excellence in Teaching with Primary Sources

Local Communities Raise Funds to Digitize Newspapers (and a Mystery)

Jim Duncan, Director of the Networking & Resource Sharing Unit of the Colorado State Library, has written a great article about the progress and plans of Colorado’s Historic Newspaper Collection.

Like digitization projects everywhere, Colorado’s Historic Newspaper Collection (CHNC) is moving and changing with the times. Every such project has to look at the sustainability of its financial model, and CHNC has found its support in the small communities that want “their” newspaper archives made available online. Jim also told me that when it comes to getting local newspaper digitization off the ground, you really must find a small town mover and shaker who will personally commit to leading the project’s fundraising. Makes sense.

Picnic Basket Ad Colorado Historic Newspaper Collection Advertisement from Jim Duncan article.

I love using historic newspapers in teaching! They give such an irreplaceable feel for the events and the times…so much more than a textbook can offer. For example, yesterday I found an article about the Oklahoma Land Rush of 1895 in the Boulder Daily Camera. Oddly, the article seems to report a second and smaller land rush of only 10,000 people in November of 1895. Next I tried looking in the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, which has digitized its newspapers from 1841 to 1902. This one vividly pictured the madness of the land rush preparations for the more famous event of April, 1889. If you keep digging, you can even find articles announcing the decision of Congress to open the Indian Territory to white settlers.

Colorado and Brooklyn newspapers reporting events in Oklahoma in 1895? 1889? Amazing! While waiting for your own state or community to digitize its historic newspapers, don’t miss out on the richness of newspaper archives far from the stories themselves. My short foray into the Oklahoma Land Rush illustrates just the kind of mystery that can hook students and turn them into amateur historians. If your students do a Google search on “Oklahoma Land Rush,” they will find 1889, 1893, and 1895 in the various hits. Hmmm. A mystery in search of a primary source solution.

Oklahoma Land Rush

Oklahoma Land Rush, McClenney Family Picture Album, 1889 (!)
Wikimedia Commons–License in Public Domain


One Response to “Local Communities Raise Funds to Digitize Newspapers (and a Mystery)”

  1. Mary Jones says:

    I have always found the land rush stories (and pictures! especially the pictures) fascinating. What a fascinating story to present to students!

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