For months, newsies have been complaining to me about Minnesota Historical Society budget cuts undermining newspaper archiving, but I never got around to reporting it. Thankfully, the Chaska Herald’s Mark W. Olson did, and he did a great job.
Olson notes the $200,000 microfilm lab “copied almost every page of almost every small Minnesota newspaper,” but fell victim in June to budget cuts. By law, newspapers still send copies to the Historical Society, but no one’s figured out an affordable preservation method. The problem is especially acute for smaller papers, Olson writes.
There’s talk of digitizing pages, the most expensive option that’s being done for some old archives via grants. Getting the digital page proofs papers send to printers has possibilities. Then there’s “web harvesting,” though such a mega-archiving doesn’t necessarily pick up all print content.
Having depended heavily on a Historical Society archive for a book I did back in 2000, I know how vital such collections are. One librarian notes people are at microfilm readers “all the time,” missing copies “are going to hurt,” and such archiving is a library’s “core function.” Hopefully, Olson’s piece can speed up whatever solutions emerge.