Condition survey: Microfilm

One of the biggest (and most educational) tasks of this project was our comprehensive condition survey of our newspaper collection. Our student workers Aneesah and Kim worked diligently to identify physical problems with the materials that might effect how items are prioritized when making digitization choices.

This post showcases some of the results for the microfilm in the collection, which gets the most use, and will probably be the format most content is digitized from (as opposed to original newsprint, which is more costly). Some of the results confirmed my ideas of the collection:

Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 4.28.50 PMThese results show that most of our microfilm consists of positive exposure acetate film with 2 images per frame, which I have learned is pretty standard for access microfilm. Unfortunately for us, this scenario is not ideal for digitization. NDNP best practices stipulate that master negative microfilm results in the best possible image when scanning. Furthermore, acetate film is generally of poor quality, and was eventually replaced by polyester, which became the standard film material in the 1980s.  (Read more about acetate here).

Acetate film degrades over time, and becomes subject to “vinegar syndrome,” which is characterized by a vinegar odor. As the acetate backing of the film separates and degrades, it releases an acid that produces a vinegar-like smell, which in turn accelerates the process of degradation. Read more about vinegar syndrome here.

Screen Shot 2013-09-30 at 4.51.21 PMA couple of notes about these condition results:

The other category includes anecdotal observations that were not options on the survey form, such as “dark edges and/or corners,” or “torn pages.” I believe this is useful information, even though it isn’t quantifiable in Google’s form reporting function.

It isn’t necessarily true that 25% of the microfilm has scratches on the film itself, although I wouldn’t rule out the possibility that some of this film is scratched. It is available for use after all. I suspect that there appear to be scratches in the image projected by the microfilm reader, which could have been produced by many factors, including the physical state of the newsprint when the microfilm was originally made.

For instance, this scan of microfilm shows what could be scratches on the film, or irregularities on the original newsprint, or, as identified with the circle, a piece of lint found on the glass of the microfilm reader!

Highland Park News-Herald & Journal, January 4, 1962

Highland Park News-Herald & Journal, January 4, 1962

While our microfilm is not up to the highest digitization standards, we know that it isn’t held by many other institutions. (And for some tiles, Oxy is likely the only place maintaining microfilm or print). For me, this reinforces the need to digitize this material for the sake of long-term preservation and use.

Disbinding bound volumes for scanning

NELA Newspapers stored in a garage before move to storage unit, 2010

NELA Newspapers stored in a garage before move to storage unit, 2010

We knew from the beginning of this project that disbinding was going to be a necessary step in scanning our bound volumes of newspaper. Most of the volumes in our collection are bound very close to the text, leaving very shallow to no margins. We recorded information on binding quality and margin size in our condition survey, and found that even if there was space between the text and binding, the shadow created by the binding would still effect the quality of the image when scanned.

For our representative sample, we chose to have Backstage disbind a 1942 volume of the Highland Park Post-Dispatch, and a 1952-1953 volume of The Occidental (Oxy’s college newspaper) before scanning. See below for sample scans from these volumes after disbinding.

Highland Park Post-Dispatch, January 1, 1942

Highland Park Post-Dispatch, January 1, 1942

Note that some of the paper ripped from the disbinding process, which we understood was a risk. We learned that this damage is due to the binding glue that seeped into the pages of the volume, and the brittle quality of the paper. Fortunately, there was minimal text loss, and the resulting image displays more text than an image taken from this volume if it were bound.

The Occidental, September 26, 1952

The Occidental, September 26, 1952

This volume was bound with staples, as opposed to glue, and it appears that no paper damage occurred in the disbinding process. However, the pages in this volume had been trimmed to fit the binding when it was produced in the 1950s, which will result in a small amount of text loss in our final images, mostly around the tops of the pages.

Stay tuned for sample scans of the microfilm in our collection!

Meet Carmela Gomes: Board member, Highland Park Heritage Trust

carmelaCarmela Gomes is a Highland Park-based Instructional Designer, Educational Consultant, and retired teacher. She is a member of the Board of Directors of the Highland Park Heritage Trust, and Secretary of the Board of Directors of the Lummis Day Community Foundation, Inc.

An active community volunteer, she serves as an instructor of the annual educational workshop A River Runs Through It: Charles Lummis and the Culture of the Arroyo Seco. Carmela is a life long learner, musician, and artist with Yarn Bombing Los Angeles.

Carmela has been instrumental in the development of a fundraising approach to continue the long-term digitization and preservation of Northeast LA newspapers. Her deep commitment to the community, and her ability to make fruitful connections between interested parties make her a valuable asset to the continuing NELA Newspapers Project.

Meet Eric Warren: President of the Eagle Rock Valley Historical Society

ERIC PICEric Warren is a native of Eagle Rock, California. He was in large part responsible for the initial preservation of the bulk of the NELA Newspaper collection, and is an indispensable member of the NELA Newspapers Pilot Project Leadership Committee.

His varied career came about through several experiences at Eagle Rock High School. He discovered through the theatre that it is possible to be in many places at one time. In Mr. Born’s photography class, he found that pictures are a window into the world for the photographer and his audience.

After brief detours into engineering and economics, it became clear that graduating from Occidental College would be contingent on receiving credit for the time he was spending backstage in the Drama Department. He graduated with that major and went on to Stanford University where he received his MFA in theatre design.

A brief foray into teaching and a longer one into electrical equipment design for the family business convinced him that his love of the theatre should center his career. For several years he freelanced, designing many productions and working as a scenic artist. His theatrical endeavors were crowned by 30 years of design for productions at Caltech.

The desire to earn a living led him to the movie business where, beginning with student productions he designed many low budget films and produced one in the heyday of low budget video. Union membership led to work as a Set Designer and Art Director in film, theme parks and television, most prominently an eleven-year gig on “ER” at Warner Brothers.

Eric continues to live in Eagle Rock and remains involved with community affairs and development and design issues. He is currently the president of the Kiwanis Club of Eagle Rock and a long time board member of the Eagle Rock High School Alumni Association.

Discovery of the remarkable archives of the Eagle Rock Valley Historical Society in neglected condition led to the restoration of the collection, his presidency of the Society, and authorship of Arcadia Publishing’s pictorial history “Eagle Rock”. The success of this volume prompted the writing of a sequel, “Eagle Rock: 1911-2011”.

Last year for Oxy’s 125th anniversary he designed “The Road to Eagle Rock” a pictorial exhibit on the college’s four locations in Los Angeles. He is delighted that many years of effort have led to the current grant to research the digitization of our wonderful collection of local newspapers.

Project update: we are scanning!

This is just a quick update that we have shipped our materials off to Pennsylvania to be scanned by Backstage Library Works. We are thrilled that we have gotten to this stage of the project, and can’t wait to see the images!


We will be scanning at least one year from the following titles, as well as several special and anniversary issues:

  • Highland Park Herald
  • Highland Park News-Herald & Journal
  • Highland Park Post-Dispatch
  • Eagle Rock Sentinel
  • Eagle Rock Advertiser
  • El Sereno Star
  • Belvedere Citizen
  • Eastside Journal
  • South Pasadena Journal
  • The Occidental

Researching Northeast Newspapers corporate history

Before placing our digitized content online, we have to exercise due diligence in our investigation of the copyright status of this material. Many of the titles in the collection were published by Northeast Newspapers, including the Highland Park News Herald & Journal, the Eagle Rock Sentinel, Lincoln Heights Bulletin News, South Pasadena Journal, and others.

In a previous post, I described our process of determining whether materials were in the public domain. However, we also needed to research who currently holds the copyright to these titles. It seemed well established that Wave Publications Group held the copyright, but I wanted to find out more about the how this change of ownership occurred. I constructed the following corporate history timeline. (The source articles are linked to here, or you can view them via our NELA Newspapers Zotero Group Library here.)

July 1991: Oran Asa sells Northeast Newspapers to Community Media Enterprises (CME),  which also owns Southern California Community Newspapers. (LA Times)

January 1993: Southern California Community Newspapers ceases publication of its 20 South LA community newspapers, but it’s “Northeast Newspapers subsidiary, which publishes under eight mastheads and includes the South Pasadena Journal and the Eastside Journal” remained open. Banks put chain up for sale. Publisher is Ric Trent. (LA Times)

July 1994: Southern California Community Newspapers becomes Urban Newspapers. (LA Times)

July 1994: Wave Newspaper Group enters into a joint agreement that combines Urban Newspapers, Northeast Newspapers, and Central News-Wave Publications. Publisher is Ric Trent. (LA Times and Editor & Publisher)

July 1998: Wave Community Newspapers files for bankruptcy (Pluria Marshall, Jr. and the Wave Community Newspapers. Graduate School of Business Administration, University of Virginia, 2001.)

  • Brian Hews = Chief Executive of Wave Community Newspapers (Pluria Marshall)
  • Arthur Nestor Hews = CEO of Wave Newspaper Group (LA Times)
  • Ric Trent = executive publisher of Wave Community Newspapers (Central News-Wave Publications + Urban Newspapers)
  • Dr. C.Z. Wilson = publisher of Central News-Wave Publications (Pluria Marshall)
  • Art Aguilar = publisher of Urban Newspapers (Pluria Marshall)

2000: Pluria Marshall, owner of Texas-based Equal Access Media Inc. considers acquiring Wave Community Newspapers Inc. (LA Times)

2000: Pluria Marshall acquires Wave Community Newspapers (Black Enterprise)

December 2004: Wave Community Newspapers Inc. (“the Wave group”) files for bankruptcy. (LA Times and Editor & Publisher)

July 8th Presentation at the Ebell Club

Kate Dundon, project Manager of the NELA Newspapers Pilot Project, speaking on project goals. Photo by hectorskeltor.

Kate Dundon, project Manager of the NELA Newspapers Pilot Project, speaking on project goals. Photo by hectorskeltor.

I was thrilled to see so many people come out to our presentation at the Ebell Club this Monday. By Tony Castillo’s count, close to 50 people attended, including many new faces. I spoke with several people afterward who are interested in participating in the project, and I look forward to brainstorming fundraising ideas with them and other interested community members. You can download the slideshow I used in my presentation here: NELA Newspapers presentation.

Eric Warren, president of the Eagle Rock Valley Historical Society, and audience members

Eric Warren, president of the Eagle Rock Valley Historical Society, and audience members


Help us identify publication dates

In a previous post, I invited others to suggest other NELA titles not currently listed in our collection inventory. Here, I have included the same list, and am hoping some of our community members can help us identify and correct the first and last dates of publication for these titles. Please share any information you have in the comment section, or email me at dundon @ Thank you!

Belvedere Citizen                                 (1934-current, or possibly 4/27/1994)
Boulevard Sentinel                               (5/17/1997- current)
The Campus Sleuth                              (1936-?)
Community Press                                  (1932-19?? [possibly 1937])
Eagle Rock Advertiser                          (1928-12/27/1945)
Eagle Rock Independent                      (1/1929-19??)
Eagle Rock News-Herald                      (5/23/1930-19??)
Eagle Rock Press Advertiser                 (1/3/1946-19??)
Eagle Rock Reporter                             (1924 or 1925-8/28/1925)
Eagle Rock Reporter and Sentinel        (9/4/1925-5/16/1930)
Eagle Rock School News                      (5/22/1936-19??)
Eagle Rock Sentinel                              (3/9/1910-1995)
Eagle Rock Star                                     (19??-19??)
Eagle’s Scream                                      (April or May 1927-19??)
Eastside Journal                                    (3/21/1935-19??)
The ERGS                                              (?-?)
The Heavy Rock                                    (?-?)
Highland Park Herald                            (circa 1905-10/17/1924)
The Highland Park Herald and Journal (circa 1/1962-circa 6/1962)
Highland Park Journal                           (19??-circa 1956)
Highland Park News-Herald                  (10/24/1924-10/1/1956)
Highland Park News-Herald & Journal  (10/4/1956-19??)
Highland Park Post Dispatch                 (19??-19??)
Lincoln Heights Bulletin News                (1928-19??)
The Mount Washington Star-Review       (19??-19??)
Northeast Newspapers Vista magazine (19??-19??)
Northeast Sun                                         (19??-current?)
El Sereno Star                                         (19??-current?)
South Pasadena Journal                         (19??-199?)
The Summit Niche circa                          (3/1995-5/3/1997)
The Weekender                                       (19??-current?)