Note: This week’s blog is written by Austin Allison, Section Supervisor of our Cataloging and Technical Processing department. Like last week’s blog on oral history remote work, he provides us an update on newspaper preservation efforts from home.
Newspaper digitization still trudges along during the COVID-19 pandemic! Even though being unable to work from the office and limiting social contact has temporarily halted new digitization of historic newspapers, we are slogging through our backlog of already digitized newspapers that had been awaiting online publication. Over the past few weeks, we have been processing and uploading newspapers to several collections including The Big Spring Herald, The Midland Reporter-Telegram, The Floyd County Hesperian, and others.
Working from home to keep the newspapers rolling has been a relatively easy transition. The only thing we need is computers with Adobe Photoshop capabilities and a connection to the internet to transfer files and access our work computers to process the completed files. The bulk of newspapers being processed and uploaded these days are microfilmed newspapers, since we cannot scan physical, hard copies in the office. Fortunately, microfilm yields the largest volume of newspapers, so we are still making great progress on many of the projects we have been working on.
Of course, this remote arrangement presents new challenges to preserving West Texas history. Occasional slow connections, problems with monitoring remote processes, and other intermittent distractions top the list of things plaguing the current state of the project, but the transition to a work-from-home environment has proven to be effective at reminding us of the importance of West Texas newspapers. While we still are making a lot of progress on the projects we are focused on, being able to take a step back and actually read some of the newspapers is beneficial to understanding the context of their place in West Texas history.
While processing pages of The Floyd County Hesperian from the 1930s through the 1970s, I took note of the annual “Old Settler’s Reunions” that took place in Floydada, among other communities, to celebrate the history and residents of the county. Floydada often associated this celebration with the yearly rodeo, but these particular newspaper issues contain the names of many early residents of the county along with many local businesses that sponsored events. The May 25th, 1966 issue of The Floyd County Hesperian, soon to be available online, urges residents to adopt a “Western mode of dress” to get into the spirit, and the succeeding issue reported the winners of contests for Best Antique Window, Best Old Fiddler, and Oldest Man and Oldest Woman at the celebration. One of these issues is a great resource for researchers; a year-after-year collection of them available freely online is a treasure trove that documents not only the Old Settler’s Reunion celebrations but the history of the county through time.
About the Project
From Spearman, Stratford and Pampa in the northern Texas Panhandle to Sonora, Ozona and Brackettville near the U.S.-Mexico border, the Southwest Collection digital newspaper project covers over 60 counties across Texas and includes over 120 different newspaper titles. Each of these individual, text-searchable newspaper issues is available to download in PDF format for free from the collection’s website, http://newspapers.swco.ttu.edu. As of April 2020, the project contains over 266,000 issues of newspapers with more becoming available online every week.