Historic Recorder newspaper digitized

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The Indianapolis Recorder, June 8, 1968
The Indianapolis Recorder, June 8, 1968

By The Indianapolis Recorder

A digitization project of The Indian­apolis Recorder and IUPUI’s University Lib­­rary has put 106 years of black history online.

Viewers can browse historic copies of the newspaper via the library’s website. The full-text searchable archive of the African-American newspaper is available at ulib.iupui.edu/digitalscholarship/collections.

The free resource makes more than 5,000 issues of the community newspaper – dated from 1899 to 2005 and captured from the microfilm version of the weekly broadsheet – available through the Web.

“We are absolutely excited about this project and really look forward to sharing it with the community,” said Shannon Williams, president and general manager of The Indianapolis Recorder. “Through this revolutionary effort people have access to history literally at their fingertips. It’s amazing!”  

Established in 1895, The Recorder is the nation’s third oldest surviving African-American-owned newspaper.

It is believed to be one of the first African-American newspapers – and among a few in the state – to have its historical catalog digitized.

The Recorder digitization project is a significant contribution to preserving the history and culture of Indianapolis, said Steve Key, HSPA executive director and general counsel.

“It gives access to a segment of Indiana society over the last century that the community wouldn’t otherwise have easy access to,” Key said. “It is also a great user-friendly tool for a variety of purposes, whether for genealogy research or academic research.”

Indianapolis Recorder Publisher Emeritus Carolene Mays granted IUPUI University Library copyright permission to create a comprehensive online archive of the Recorder.

Newspapers rarely make their copyright backfiles available, and in most cases papers published after 1923 are not available on the Web, said University Library Dean David Lewis.

“The Recorder was known for its local coverage of news that was important to the Indianapolis African-American community,” Lewis said.

“Because of the nature of the reporting done by The Recorder and the willingness to make the full backfile publicly available, this is a special resource, especially for Indianapolis but well beyond,” Lewis said. “It will be used by genealogists, students and re­searchers who are looking to learn more about their families, their neighborhoods and Indianapolis.”

Within the past decade, IUPUI University Library has partnered with several organizations to produce more than 60 digital collections, including those related to institutions of significance in the African-American community such as Crispus Attucks High School, Flanner House and Ransom Place.

Although The Recorder project is comprehensive, some issues, particularly those published between 1917 and 1925, and from January to April of 1932, are not available.

Local historians are not sure what happened to the editions, but they have invited citizens to help fill in the gaps if they have copies of the lost issues or clips from them.

Until now, the only resource that housed a collection of Recorder articles for public use was the Indiana History Center.

“We do not have a full collection of archives in our office, but we frequently receive calls from people with questions about past articles,” Williams said. “Now they have a convenient resource that they can use at any time.”