Lamar University archivist Penny Clark and Charlotte Holliman display an early university newspaper from the Mary and John Gray Library special collections that is among thousands of pages now available online.

Staff Reports – For The Record

Since the introduction of digitization, archivists at museums and universities across the world have been able to increase access for interested viewers to sensitive and important materials by preserving digital copies available for viewing online.  Lamar University’s John and Mary Gray Library is no exception.

This past year, university archivist Penny Clark, with assistance from Andy Coughlan, director of the University Press, worked diligently to digitize LU’s newspaper. From its early days as The Red Bird to today’s University Press, issues once available exclusively as physical copies can now be read online.

 

Before the materials were digitized they could only be viewed in person during the regular office hours, Clark said. “When the materials are available on the Web, visitors can access it any time. And they can be viewed from Austin to Australia. That’s really great.”

 

Clark credits Karen Nichols, coordinator of reference services, who suggested that Lamar apply for a TexTreasures grant to make the project possible. The university received more than $11,000 to support the labor-intensive process of counting and measuring each paper, and sending the hard copies to Arcasearch, a Minnesota-based company that digitized more than 17,000 pages through a photographic process, rather than scanning.

 

“It used to be that preservation and access were contradictory things,” Clark said.  “If you provided access to these materials, you will inadvertently destroy the material over time. Now, greater preservation and greater access work together. Everyone can have access, scholars and the public.”

 

Primary sources, particularly newspapers, provide readers with not only feature stories about community events, but also regional perspectives on emerging social and technological changes. “From a historical standpoint, newspapers are a record of an institution or a place,” Coughlan said. “Newspapers are an indispensable resource that give us the ability to reexamine an event from the past.”

 

Before digitizing the papers, people seeking information would call the university archives, and Clark, or Charlotte Holliman in special collections, would have to manually flip through copies. With the new process, interested readers can simply type keywords in a search engine and pull up relevant stories.

 

“The papers we have digitized are searchable, whether to take a trip down memory lane or research,” Clark said. “Many people use old school newspapers for genealogy. Sometimes people have a little bit knowledge that they can use to find more information.”

 

Headlines and images of the Vietnam War protests, full-page ads that glamorized smoking tobacco and stories of past Lamar presidents and their annual convocations are among the items documented. Today, the newspaper still aims to inform readers of events at Lamar University and the larger community.

 

“One of the things the University Press tries to do is to understand that it is a continuing archive of Lamar’s history, the people at Lamar and events in the surrounding community,” Coughlan said.

 

The library staff has also provided the digital files to the Portal to Texas history, a large digital archive, that will expose new readers to the LU newspapers and website. The digitized copies can also be found in the library’s Special Collections section of the website where the archives are linked to the Search Digitized Collections. From there, one can browse for different editions and topics.

 

Although the collection covers papers from 1933 through today, Clark is still working to fill in gaps in its early record.

 

“We are missing newspapers from before 1933,” she said. “We know there was a publication as early as 1923 when the school started and we would love to have those. Since the newspaper was distributed to so many people, we hope someone will recognize the value in old copies they may stumble upon.”

 

Readers can find 70 years of Lamar’s press at http://tinyurl.com/univpress as well as through The Portal to Texas History at texashistory.unt.edu. For more information, contact Clark at (409) 880-7787 or Holliman at (409) 880-8660.