Indiana German paper makes digitization list

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This edition of the Indiana Tribüne from May 15, 1902, features an article about the then-newly constructed Soldiers and Sailors Monument in downtown Indianapolis.

Indiana will be the first state to make available digitized versions of German-language newspapers through the Library of Congress.

The Indiana State Library is working to digitize a selection of Indiana’s historically significant newspapers as part of a National Endowment for the Humanities grant.

Newspapers digitized as part of the two-year project will be posted on the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America website, chroniclingamerica.loc.gov, through 2013.

“Indiana history is the product of local events, and local events are captured within the pages of the community newspaper,” said Chris Ittenbach, the library’s project manager for the digitization effort. “The Indiana State Library provides Hoosiers with access to this information, traditionally on microfilm. Digitization of these newspapers is the next step in providing 21st century access for Hoosiers to local events in history.”

Chronicling America, created by the Library of Congress in Washington, D.C., provides access to information about historic newspapers and select digitized newspaper pages.

The National Digital Newspaper Program, a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress, is a long-term effort to develop an Internet-based, searchable database of U.S. newspapers with descriptive information and historic pages.

At the project’s beginning nearly seven years ago, the Library of Congress could not accept German-language newspapers because the font style commonly used during the 19th and 20th centuries, Fraktur, represented significant challenges for programs using optical character recognition, or OCR. (OCR makes the digitized pages word-searchable.)

Fortunately, OCR technology has made significant advances over the years and now works for Fraktur-based German newspapers.

The state library, in partnership with the Indiana Historical Society, selected the Indiana Tribüne as the first German paper to be digitized, OCR’ed and eventually sent to Chronicling America (in spring 2013).

The importance of foreign-language newspapers and other publications printed for ethnic groups in the United States is two-fold, said Giles R. Hoyt, Ph.D., professor and director emeritus for the IUPUI Max Kade German-American Center.

“On one hand, they tell us a great deal about the ethnic group itself, but on the other hand they tell us perhaps even more about the development of American social and cultural life,” Hoyt said. “With easier access to these documents, often ignored in research because of their inaccessibility, historians will have the ability to gain new and more accurate perspectives on life in this country.

“The digitization of the Indiana Tribüne will help provide those perspectives.”

For more information about the digitization of historic Indiana newspapers, contact Ittenbach at cittenbach@library.in.gov.

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