Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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Nominations were sought from the Connecticut Coordinating Committee for the Promotion of History, the Connecticut Daily Newspaper Association, the Connecticut Historical Society, the Connecticut Humanities Council, the Connecticut League of Historical Societies, the Connecticut Library Association, the Connecticut Society of Genealogists, the State Archivist, the State Historian, the Ethnic Heritage Center, the University of Connecticut, and Yale University.
The members of the Advisory Board met in two rounds to select the newspapers to be filmed. Membership changed between rounds but all members are listed here: John Breen, University of Connecticut; Ellen Embardo, University of Connecticut; Dr. Robert J. Fitzsimmons, Connecticut Society of Genealogists; David Rhinelander, Connecticut Daily Newspaper Association; Judith Schiff, Yale University; Donna Siemiatkoski, Connecticut Society of Genealogists; and Dr. Bruce Stark, Connecticut State Archives. Project Coordinator Jane F. Cullinane met with the board members six times from Dec. 5, 1997 to May 22, 1998 and five times from Apr. 9, 1999 to June 4, 1999. Full contact information for the Board can be found in the appendices.
After the first round of meetings, the Board approved 373 titles from 91 towns. The titles on this first list were chosen primarily because they fit the criteria judged to be most important: titles from towns with no newspapers on film, or titles that filled a gap in the years preserved on film for each town. Most were published between 1850 and 1950. A few were for specific ethnic or racial groups or were about special topics, such as temperance.
In 1999, the Board reviewed the Selection Criteria once again. It became clear that the largest group of titles remaining in the top two criteria (towns with nothing on film, and filming to fill gaps) were published since 1950. The order of priorities was changed so that titles known to be at great risk of deterioration, and titles with special research value including amateur and handwritten newspapers became the top two priorities. More titles were then added to ensure the entire run of a "family" was included, and the Board selected some post-1950 newspapers from towns with no newspapers on film. This brought the total selected for the last two rounds of filming to 426 titles (803,635 pages) from 78 towns or on 16 special topics. The revised priority order for selection is shown in the appendices.
Borrowing Newspapers From Many Sources For
Our experience was generally positive as we sought to borrow the issues needed to fill out runs of the newspapers selected for filming. Because the best, most readable image of a page is achieved when the paper is flat, disbound, and in good repair, this is what we requested when seeking to borrow a newspaper. Most libraries, historical societies and publishers were delighted to cooperate and loaned their newspapers eagerly. A few refused entirely and others had special handling requirements such as no disbinding. A loan agreement form spelled out what was borrowed and what treatment the lending institution permitted.
Complexities arose when issues had to be borrowed from more than one or two institutions at the same time. Not only were we trying to fill gaps in long runs by borrowing whole volumes of newspapers, we were also trying to film the only known issue of numerous short-lived newspapers. For many titles that met the selection criteria, only one or a few issues were known to exist; in fact, 247 of the 437 titles we filmed had fewer than 100 pages. These were grouped in the best, most logical, way possible resulting in so-called "families" of unrelated newspapers (not by the same publisher) that were filmed together. In the appendices is a sample from the CNP homepage that shows the special topic (ethnic, temperance, etc.) newspapers. The sample shows how unrelated titles, usually just one or two issues of a newspaper that was available for filming, were grouped as a "family."
For example, twenty titles were filmed on two reels called "Connecticut prohibition newspapers, 1829-1911". The issues came from 10 institutions and it was a challenge to borrow from so many lenders all at once. Remember this family was just one of many being handled at the same time. Numerous phone calls and emails were needed to get permission from the appropriate authority at each institution to borrow their newspapers. Newspapers had to be picked up or shipped. If one institution ran into a snag that delayed delivery of an issue, then the filming of every other title was delayed. Sometimes Institution A wanted its newspapers back before Institution B had loaned us the other issues we needed to complete the reel.
Highlight: Ethnic And Minority Newspapers
Aside from our disappointment at not finding new collections of ethnic and minority newspapers, the microfilming phase preserved every available issue of 42 titles in this category, including all ethnic and minority newspapers published before 1950 that were not already on microfilm. Fourteen German language newspapers have been found and filmed by CNP, as were newspapers in French (1), Hungarian (2), Italian (16), Lithuanian (1), Spanish (1), and Swedish (1) plus six in English intended for the Italian-American, African-American, and Jewish audiences. This includes the earliest available foreign language newspaper published in Connecticut, the German weekly Hartforder Zeitung that began in April 1858. Only one issue is known to exist although it is thought to have continued publication for a few months.
When filming was completed and the film inspected and approved, the newspapers were returned to the lending institutions and holdings were added to OCLC. They were added to Project reQuest, the statewide database, in the next annual update. Again, this step was another big undertaking, especially for those reels of film that contain many unrelated newspapers. The family called "Connecticut Foreign Language Newspapers, 1907-1938" includes 16 titles borrowed from 5 institutions. Each institution gets a holdings statement on OCLC for each title. In addition, a second statement is added for the State Library to show the location of the master negative for each title, and changes are made in the details about who owns which original issues. A total of 102 holdings statements were added or changed for just this one reel of film. Admittedly, this was the worst case but it demonstrates the painstaking and tedious nature of the task.
Staff Of The Connecticut Newspaper Project
The following individuals contributed to the accomplishments of CNP:
Throughout the life of the project, assistance was also provided by the secretaries to the Project Director: Ellen Morrison, AnneMarie Costello, and Ursula Hunt. The State Library Bibliographic Information Services, headed by Tom Geoffino and, later by Stephen Slovasky advised on cataloging problems. In addition, BIS provided a part-time cataloger, Carolyn Giliberto, who finished the last cataloging needed for the State Library collection when the CNP staff began work at other sites. Connecticut Union List of Serials coordinator Janis Lefkowitz advised on adding newspaper holdings information to the OCLC Union List, and in publishing and distributing the annual union list including the newspapers. Conservator Karl Kallio and Photo-Duplication section supervisor Andre Bascom advised on treatment and housing of fragile newspapers and the creation of brochures and pamphlets, respectively.
Staff who worked less than one month are not included. This category consists chiefly of general workers who often were students working during school breaks. It also includes a clerk, a cataloger, and two library technical assistants. In fact, staff turnover was one of the challenges facing CNP. For example, there was a six-month gap between the departure of Laura Moulton, Microfilm Project Librarian in October 2000 and the arrival of Karen Nadeski in April 2001. When Library Technical Assistant Glenn Sherman took a permanent position in the Preservation Office of the State Library, he had to start his new duties and simultaneously continue his CNP duties for twelve months until a replacement could be hired by CNP.
These gaps naturally had an impact on the amount of work that could get done. Other staff had to pick up the slack and only the most important tasks were done. When new staff came on board, the normal flow of work was restored slowly, due to the substantial learning curve. This is true at every level: staff are not available for hire who are already knowledgeable as entry-level newspaper catalogers, microfilming project librarians, library technical assistants who know how to do reel programming, or even general workers who know how to disbind, collate and repair newspapers.
A look at the quarterly statistics show the delays caused by this problem. The cataloging phase ended officially in June 1996 but holdings were still being added to OCLC through the April-June 1997 quarter. Microfilming ended in July 2002 but holdings statements to show the existence of the new film are still being added as of this writing. This work is expected to be completed in the next month.