Preserving Northeast LA Newspapers
Occidental College Library and partner organizations Eagle Rock Valley Historical Society (ERVHS) and Highland Park Heritage Trust (HPHT) are preserving 100 years of local history by building a digital archive of Northeast Los Angeles neighborhood newspapers.
The papers with sample content thus far are the following:
- Belvedere Citizen
- Eagle Rock Advertiser
- Eagle Rock Sentinel
- Eastside Journal
- El Sereno Star
- Highland Park Herald
- Highland Park News-Herald & Journal
- The Occidental
The newspapers of Eagle Rock, Highland Park, Mt. Washington, and other neighborhoods have chronicled, and continue to chronicle, a vibrant, culturally and socially diverse region of Los Angeles. This repository for print, microfilm, and digitized issues of the papers makes an important contribution to northeast L.A.’s historical identity by preserving and making accessible resources not available anywhere else. Among the first users of the digitized papers are producers from NPR’s Marketplace program, who have embarked on a year-long research project on economic change in Highland Park; images from the papers decorate the walls of their temporary neighborhood “bureau” at 6187 North Figueroa.
It took a significant planning grant of $35,000 from The John Randolph Haynes and Dora Haynes Foundation and support for the grant proposal from Los Angeles City Council Districts 1, 13, and 14 for ERVHS, HPHT, and Occidental to develop the project. Prior to the grant, ERVHS and HPHT had played a leading role in preserving backfiles of neighborhood newspapers. Joined by the Library in 2010, the partners have gathered, jointly housed, and inventoried significant holdings in microfilm and physical copies dating from 1906 to 1996.
The grant from Haynes provided support for a project to establish standards and procedures for a long-term program to preserve, digitize, and increase access to the papers. The project began in April 2013 with project manager and archivist Kate Dundon and a leadership team composed of Occidental’s Bob Kieft, Anne Mar, and Dale Stieber; ERVHS’s Frank Parello and Eric Warren; and HPHT’s Antonio Castillo and Carmela Gomes. The planning was substantially completed in November 2013, but the project officially concluded in March 2014 to allow for the additional time needed for technical processing at the CDNC, copyright clearance, followup on local preservation of digital materials at Occidental, and planning a public event on March 1, 2014, to celebrate the completion of the grant and launch the next stage of the project.
Dundon and the the leadership team met regularly to guide the project, which had three major foci:
(1) To survey and assess the physical condition of the entire collection with the aid of two student workers. The information gathered by this survey provided rich data on the physical state of the collection and the exact holdings, copyright status, and location of other copies of each title in the collection. This information was used to populate a comprehensive collection inventory and to create a series of catalog records for local and national databases in order to provide an accurate description of the collection for researchers. Dundon also researched and recommended options for the ongoing preservation and storage of the print collection, created a list of publications for potential acquisition, and launched a blog to document the project and communicate with project partners (http://nelanewspapers.wordpress.com/).
(2) To establish guidelines, standards, and workflows for a long-term digitization program. Dundon researched best practices for similar newspaper projects and consulted with Brian Geiger, director of the Center for Bibliographic Studies and Research (CBSR) at UC Riverside, to select material to be scanned, contract with scanning and digitization vendors, place the resulting material in the CDNC, and document and create a sustainable program for the project. Geiger gave invaluable advice, and the collaboration with UC Riverside proved a strong foundation for the pilot project and will continue to support the longer-term program. A very important element was identifying a chronologically diverse selection of titles to be digitized, a sample that would also represent the challenges of working with print and microfilm formats in various conditions. Dundon developed procedures for determining the copyright status of all 29 titles in the collection and created a portal to NELA newspaper content on the Occidental Special Collections’ website.
(3) To establish the structure for an ongoing digitization program and to develop a fundraising strategy to support it through a successful collaboration among the Leadership Committee. The long-term program structure specifies the roles and responsibilities required to sustain the project as well as estimated budget and time-commitments for each partner institution. A community-funding model for the long-term program will be supported by budgets Dundon created for digitizing high-profile segments of the collection as well as the whole collection; by documentation usable in applying for funding from Neighborhood Councils and Council Districts; and through bank and PayPal accounts created by HPHT for managing donations.
During the course of the project, Dundon and the leadership team discussed the planning grant with the HPHT Board, ERVHS membership, Highland Park community, the Associated Historical Societies of Los Angeles County, and a group of Occidental faculty at a workshop on performing research using historic newspapers. Representatives of the partner organizations staffed visitor tables, distributed informational flyers, and showed sample historic newspapers from the collection during several events, including Lummis Day, ERVHS Ice Cream Social, Eagle Rock Music Festival, and the Los Angeles Archives Bazaar. News of the project appeared in blogs, newsletters, and an article on KPCC’s Off-Ramp; the project was also featured in an exhibit in the Occidental College Library that displayed newspapers from the collection, described its elements, and highlighted the generosity of the Haynes Foundation.
Having successfully achieved the goals established for the planning grant, the leadership team continue to meet, seek newspapers not now in the collection, promote involvement in the project, talk to local educators on using the newspapers in courses, work with publishers of current papers to include them in the CDNC, and raise funds to continue scanning and digitization of the publications we hold. Under the grant, the project digitized about 2% of the collection, roughly 6,200 of 341,000 pages; at an estimated $1.50 per scan, the hard costs for digitizing all the papers total $200,000. The leadership team is reaching out to the Eagle Rock, Historical Highland Park, LA-32, Cypress Park, and Arroyo Seco Neighborhood Councils and Council Districts 1, 13, and 14 as well as to neighborhood residents to raise funds. Please see the NELA Newspaper Project portal, and contact Bob Kieft (firstname.lastname@example.org), Anne Mar (email@example.com), or Dale Stieber (firstname.lastname@example.org) for more information.
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