Anyone with an Internet connection and a little computer sense can find quotes, images and stories about entire generations of Louisianians who had no idea anything like the invisible communication network would ever exist.
Newspapers from as far back as the early 19th century have now been copied, scanned and digitized to create a historical data mine of cultural significance as part of the Digitizing Louisiana Newspapers Project at the LSU Libraries Special Collections.
On Tuesday afternoon, a group of mostly journalists and researchers gathered at the Hill Memorial Library to hear about the latest updates to the database, which currently allows digital access to 77 Louisiana newspapers dating back to the 1830s, said DLNP manager Laura Charney.
“Not only do we want you to be able to view these items, we want you to be able to search them,” Charney said.
The project is funded the National Digitizing Newspapers Program, which is a partnership between the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for Humanities, which gathers newspapers published before 1930 and digitizes them for more convenient research access.
Before Charney demonstrated how to search the databases, Michael Taylor, assistant curator of books gave a brief history of newspapers in Louisiana.
“I get to be the ghost of newspapers past,” Taylor joked.
Louisiana’s first English newspaper, The Union, or New-Orleans Advertiser and Price Current, was published in 1803.
While many of today’s front pages contain catchy headlines and attention-grabbing images, 19th century newspapers were purely textual.
They didn’t have local reporters, so national stories, advertisements and often the latest town gossip is what filled the papers, Taylor said.
Charney and Taylor will continue working to broaden the access to old newspapers in Louisiana as long as the NDNP continues providing grants.
Anyone can access the database through chroniclingamerica.loc.gov, where in addition to the digitized newspapers, the largest U.S. newspaper directory, dating back to 1690, can be viewed.
Editor's Note: This article has been changed to reflect the following corrections: In the original version of this article, The Daily Reveille incorrectly spelled the name of Laura Charney, the project manager for the Digitizing Louisiana Newspapers Project. The article also failed to clarify that the National Digitizing Newspapers Program is a partnership between the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for Humanities. We regret the errors.