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California Newspaper Project Nearing Completion

California Newspaper Project at UC Riverside Lands $800,000 In Grants to Complete Statewide Cataloging and Preservation Work

Tasks of Finding, Cataloging and Microfilming The State’s Newspapers is Headquartered at UC Riverside

(April 9, 2003)

The California Newspaper Project

The California Newspaper Project

RIVERSIDE, Calif. — The Center for Bibliographical Studies and Research (CBSR) at the University of California, Riverside, which has spent more than a decade locating, cataloging and preserving the state’s more than 10,000 known newspaper titles, has received an $800,000 grant to complete the work.

The new grant, which will run from July 1, 2003 until June 30, 2005, will allow the Center’s staff to complete the statewide inventory of newspapers, mostly in Southern California, catalog an additional 500 of the state’s newspapers and place some of them on microfilm.

The latest grant also continues a partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities and UC Riverside entered into in 1991. The partnership charges CBSR with identifying every existing newspaper title going back to the beginnings of the state, cataloging them and in many cases, preserving their pages on microfilm. The effort is part of an ongoing national drive conducted at the state level.

California is the third largest newspaper project in the U.S., surpassed only by New York and Illinois.

Most of the northern part of California has been cataloged, said Henry Snyder, a professor of history at UC Riverside and director of the CBSR. About 140 libraries, museums, historical societies, publishers and private collectors — all known as repositories — remain to be cataloged in Santa Barbara, Ventura, Los Angeles, Orange and San Diego counties.

Since 1991, the center’s staff has been working in three teams based at UC Riverside, UC Berkeley and at the California State Library in Sacramento. They have been doing the work of saving the state’s primary and most important sources for local history, according to Snyder.

“Why do this?” he asked. “We do it because newspapers are important, they are fragmentary and they are perishable.”

Newspapers serve an historical, genealogical and legal purpose, Snyder said. They have provided historians with a running record of occurrences throughout the state since the Californian of Monterey first published in 1846. Newspapers have allowed researchers to track births, deaths and lives through obituaries. They have assisted attorneys and legal scholars in locating and describing some of the state’s more obscure and important legal disputes.

The task has been a daunting one. Team members have visited more than 1,300 repositories, such as county and municipal libraries, museums, local historical societies, newspaper publishers, and large private collections such as the Huntington Library.

“We went to each repository to look at what it had and inventory the holdings,” said Andrea Vanek, assistant director of the project, who is based at UC Berkeley. “Some repositories took us years to completely inventory and others only took one visit.”

The teams have identified newspaper runs in 36 languages and have a catalog of about 10,000 California newspaper titles. The California Newspaper Project is now the most comprehensive resource on state newspaper titles and holdings, a public version of which is available on the project’s Web site.

The final stage of the project was to have been microfilming the cataloged newspapers, but the poor condition of some newspapers forced Snyder to perform a kind of triage and begin microfilming early, he said. The project received $50,000 for emergency microfilming from the state library from 1996 to 1998. The following year they received $150,000 from the federal Library Services and Technology Act, administered by the state library. The two grants allowed project teams to microfilm 36 titles.

From 2000 to the 2002-03 fiscal year, the project landed $300,000 annually from the California State Legislature to microfilm more newspapers. The project has preserved 75 additional titles with money from the state. An additional $240,000 is expected from the state in the fiscal year 2003-2004, Snyder said.

Another notable accomplishment of the project has been the efforts to recover existing microfilm from defunct publishers and microfilming companies such as the 560 newspaper volumes and 1,400 reels recovered from the Wave Publications warehouse in 1998. The project and the state library shared the cost of acquiring another 300 titles on 13,000 reels of film from the Custom Microfilming Co. of Riverside when it went out of business in 2001.

“Once you get a newspaper on microfilm it really lengthens the life of the publication,” said Snyder. “Microfilming also allows us to take the next step in preservation: Digitizing.”
Henry Snyder, director of the Center for Bibliographical Studies and Research

Henry Snyder, director of the Center for Bibliographical Studies and Research

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