While sitting at my microfilm desk enjoying my last cup of coffee, I am reflecting on what I have learned from working on the NELA Newspapers Pilot Project. I have come up with a top three list that sums up some of what I have learned.
1. Preserving History is Hard Work but Worth It
I wish you all could see not only my task list but Kate’s work plan as well. It is absolutely overwhelming to look at sometimes. There are so many components that go into digitizing a small collection of newspapers. On Kate’s end she has to select which newspapers will get digitized and then has to correspond with the other member’s of the NELA team such as Eric Warren of the Eagle Rock Valley Historical Society and Dale Stieber, Occidental College’s Special Collections Archivist. That is one tiny portion of her job and it takes a considerable amount of time.
On my end I have to research copyright status in the catalog of copyright entries for every single title spanning the date ranges it was published, in addition to adding extensive information about each publication in the master inventory. This is also only a portion of what I do. This work helps make the libraries job of cataloging each publication much easier.
Although, these tasks take some time to complete and there are many changes that can be made, I believe that it will be well worth it at the end of this project because there will be a solid representative sample that can serve as the foundation for digitizing the rest of the NELA Newspapers collection.
2. Newspapers and Microfilm Live and Die
Like everyone I knew that newspapers get old and eventually disintegrate, but when Kate explained it to me she said that they “die”. I never thought of Newspapers having a life-span and it made me realize how important this project is. Some of the NELA community history would be lost if the time was not taken to digitize the NELA Newspapers.
In addition, I did not know that microfilm dies as well. To begin with I did not know what microfilm was until I started working on the project. It turns out that microfilm, which appears to be just a thicker piece of photo film, is made out of acetate or polyster. The acetate decomposes and therefore “dies” because it is acidic, it also smells like vinegar. Whereas polyster microfilm can stand the test of time pretty well, although it still needs to be cared for and should be digitized as well.
3. Newspapers are like Michael Jackson, they must rest in a temperature controlled room in order to remain intact and in good condition.
I think everyone remembers when we found out that MJ slept in a hyperbaric chamber (turns out it wasn’t true), little did I know that newspapers need the same conditions in order to live a long life. The library of congress provides these specifications “[For preserving newspapers it is best to have ] a cool (room temperature or below), relatively dry (about 35% relative humidity), clean, and stable environment (avoid attics, basements, and other locations with high risk of leaks and environmental extremes)” Retreived from the Library of Congress website. The temperature is usually controlled by an archivist that knows what they are doing, and this ensures that the newspapers remain as well preserved as Cher.
I hope you enjoyed my top three list and I would like to conclude my final post with saying that the NELA Newspapers Pilot Project was a fun and educational experience for me. I have to say that the portion of the project that I most enjoyed was curating an exhibit with Kate. I never thought that I would curate an exhibit and I’m so glad to add it to my life experience list. Everything was new to me with this project and it has greatly added to my knowledge of the Occidental College Special Collections Department and Northeast Los Angeles as a whole. I would like to thank Kate Dundon, Anne Mar, and Dale Stieber for placing me on the NELA team and making this not only a summer job but a scholarly endeavor.