Chronicling America

I chose the Chronicling America project.

What motivated me in picking this project is banal: piracy. The subject of pirates within the 18th/19th centuries and their representation has always interested me on personal and (recently budding) scholarly levels. Having nailed the subject down, I then asked which projects may aid in discovering more news about them. Among the projects offered, I decided Chronicling America would be a great starting point—and that it was. The ‘about’ page claims they “provide access to information about historic newspapers” but that’s not all. Thousands upon thousands of newspapers have not only been digitized but went through text encoding. The fact that each participant of the National Digital Newspaper Program receives an award to digitize around 100,000 newspaper pages goes to show that there are thousands of newspapers still in microfilm, most likely sitting within an archive somewhere. Chronicling America is for any number of people: from the cultural historian who wants to trace the journalism of Melville to the public-school teacher looking for news within their local state, the sheer breadth of the project tells me it’s meant to serve any and everybody. The Website offers an interactive HTML for magnification and navigation. To undertake a similar project one would need an understanding of archival practices and methods (microfilms), HTML, Java, Meta-data practices, and the Open Archive Information System. The producers of the website are NDNP, a partnership between the NEH and Library of Congress. What worries me about such a project are which newspapers are selected to be digitized and which are not. Participants of Chronicling America are expected to digitize from microfilm holdings merely for efficiency and cost. It makes me wonder what gets elided in that preference for efficiency. Future projects could learn to implement a similar Web interface enhanced with dynamic HTML and OCR scanning—it makes interacting with the Website smooth and pleasant.