Why digitize newspapers? I work at the Houston County Public Library and recall two instances specifically that impressed upon me the importance and usefulness of digitization.
Through grants and donations from Flint Energies and the estate of Alice L. Gilbert, the Houston County Public Library System partnered with the Digital Library of Georgia (DLG) to digitize our local newspaper, the Houston Home Journal.
Not long ago, we had received notice from the DLG that they had successfully completed the project and that it was accessible through the Georgia Historic Newspapers site located in GALILEO. The information was no sooner relayed to me than I got to take my first spin on the newly digitized information. A gentleman walked in and wanted the newspaper information on “the unknown man who was buried in Perry in his underwear.” Yes, that’s correct. A man was buried in his underwear in Perry, Georgia; an article was written about it, and this patron expected me to find it.
I was stymied. Then I remembered that our newly digitized newspaper was word indexed. I logged in, typed in the common, everyday keywords of “man”, “buried”, and “underwear”…and magic happened! It pulled right up. Hallelujah, I was saved! I printed the article, handed it to the gentleman, and looked smug. The patron went home impressed with how easy the digitized newspaper was to search and navigate–and also knowing that it was just a keystroke away. I was able with little time and effort to be an awesome librarian.
The second occurrence did not even take place in the library. I was at a local function wearing my “library hat” and was engaged in the usual “What do you do?” conversation at my table. A lady said she was thankful we had made the old newspaper articles available online. She told me she had had a very athletic and talented brother that had been making a name for himself in school sports. Over the years, their mother had made a scrapbook of all the newspaper clippings with his name mentioned or interviews given. Unfortunately, his was an untimely death. In the chaos that followed, the scrapbook was lost.
When our local newspaper was digitized and made available, this lady searched her brother’s name, and printed out and put together a new scrapbook containing all the news clippings about her brother. She then gave it to her mother. Because we had digitized our newspapers, she was able to replace what was lost.
These are just two instances, both very different in their use, that the digitization of the Houston Home Journal by the Digital Library of Georgia, was indispensable. Though there are more, these examples are the most memorable. I would encourage other libraries, if they are considering digitizing, to go ahead. It is financially daunting for sure, but when looking at serving the community or long-term benefits, it makes so much sense. Good luck!
—Judith Malone, Perry Branch Manager of the Houston County Public Library.
ATLANTA — Georgia HomePLACE, the Digital Library of Georgia (DLG), and the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System are pleased to announce the addition of over 10,000 digitized pages of African American funeral programs to the Augusta Public Library’s Eula M. Ramsey Johnson Memorial Funeral Program Collection. Spanning 1933-2017 and consisting of over 3,000 programs, the digital collection provides both a rich source of genealogical information and local history about the African American community. Programs are freely available online through the DLG.
The current project more than doubles the total number of programs originally available in the digital collection. In 2009, HomePLACE and the DLG digitized the approximately 1,000 funeral programs available in the Georgia Heritage Room of the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System. The bulk of the collection was donated in the early 2000s by local historian Gloria Ramsey Lucas. An avid genealogist and former president of the Augusta Genealogical Society, Ms. Lucas is known for her award-winning work, Slave Records of Edgefield County, a compilation which came about during her own search for enslaved ancestors. The donated funeral programs belonged to her aunt, Eula M. Ramsey Johnson, who had been collecting them for over 30 years and for whom the collection is named.
“Family history researchers are familiar with common vital records rich in genealogical data–such as birth, marriage and death certificates–and frequently exhaust these resources in their ancestral search,” says HomePLACE Director Angela Stanley. “Though often difficult to find, funeral programs can provide critical information about a person’s relationships, character, community ties and social prominence that coroner’s reports and death certificates cannot. These context clues become all the more precious when we consider that genealogists researching African American lineage are frequently told the work cannot be done. Yet what we often find is that when the right records come to light, the people behind them do, too.”
A majority of the programs are from churches in Augusta, Georgia and the surrounding area, with a few outliers in other states such as New York and Florida. The programs typically contain a photograph of the deceased, an obituary, a list of surviving relatives, and the order of service. The collection provides extensive genealogical information about the deceased, including birth and death dates, maiden names, names of relatives, past residences and place of burial. Many of the people included in this collection were prominent in their communities and involved locally in the struggle for civil rights. In 2010, the collection was honored with a Georgia Historical Records Advisory Board Award for Excellence in Documenting Georgia’s History.
Says Georgia Heritage Room Librarian Tina Monaco, “This award-winning collection has truly been, from its inception, a community-driven endeavor. The digital collection offers a much-needed resource to those researching African-American family and social history.”
Funding for this project was provided by Georgia HomePLACE, a unit of the Georgia Public Library Service. The new collection was made possible through a partnership between Georgia HomePLACE, the Digital Library of Georgia and the Augusta-Richmond County Public Library System in Augusta, Georgia.
Georgia HomePLACE http://georgialibraries.org/homeplace is a project of the Georgia Public Library Service (GPLS) that encourages public libraries and related institutions across the state to participate in the Digital Library of Georgia. HomePLACE offers a highly collaborative model for digitizing primary source collections related to local history and genealogy. HomePLACE is supported with federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA) funds administered by the Institute of Museum and Library Services through GPLS, a unit of the Board of Regents of the University System of Georgia.
Based at the University of Georgia Libraries, the Digital Library of Georgia http://dlg.galileo.usg.edu/ is a GALILEO initiative that collaborates with Georgia’s libraries, archives, museums and other institutions of education and culture to provide access to key information resources on Georgia history, culture and life. This primary mission is accomplished through the ongoing development, maintenance and preservation of digital collections and online digital library resources. DLG also serves as Georgia’s service hub for the Digital Public Library of America and as the home of the Georgia Newspaper Project, the state’s historic newspaper microfilming project.
Selected images from collection:
Memorializing Valeria LaVerne Reese, Antioch Baptist Church, January 19, 1958, 10:00 a.m., Rev. I. J. Yancy, officiating
Celebrating her life and legacy, Margaret Mims Abraham, December 26, 1943-December 4, 2013, Saturday, December 14, 2013, 11:00 a.m., Beulah Grove Baptist Church, 1434 Poplar Street Augusta, Georgia, Reverend Dr. Sam Davis, pastor, officiating