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The Pittsburgh Jewish Newspapers Project: Digitizing Archival Newspapers for Full-Text Searching

journal contribution
posted on 01.10.2009, 00:00 authored by Gabrielle MichalekGabrielle Michalek, Jennie Benford
The Carnegie Mellon University Libraries was asked by the library director of a local synagogue to digitize a singular collection of three historic Jewish newspapers, all of which were published in Pittsburgh. These three newspapers, the runs of which span the 19th to the 21st century, posed unique digitization challenges, both as unwieldy, fragile physical objects and as unindexed, dense analog datasets. Using a combination of revamped workflows and repurposed equipment, the Carnegie Mellon Library staff rose to the challenge, creating a full text searchable set of 160,000 digital surrogates for under $100,000. As of 2009, fundraising to secure another $100,000 is underway to support creation of 75,000 more images, creating a searchable database of approximately 235,000 images by project end. In its current incarnation, the Jewish Newspapers Project provides open access to a one of a kind collection of social, genealogical and demographic information about the Jewish communities in and beyond 20th century Pittsburgh. This article is an examination of how a successful archival digitization project was launched by retrofitting earlier workflows, utilizing existing equipment from other projects, and by cobbling together a likeminded group of participants, all of whom have some stake in the end product.


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