Q: Why are you doing this? I thought the papers were already available electronically.
A: Yes, most papers are available in PDF format on the Greenbelt News Review website, but the quality of many is poor enough that they are sometimes unreadable and often cannot be fully indexed for searching on the computer. These PDFs were made from microfilm images of the paper, which appeared to have minimal quality control standards or had deteriorated by the time the PDFs were made. To obtain higher quality digital images that are fully searchable, we are scanning the original newsprint copies of the paper. These are deteriorating too, so it's imperative to preserve their content and archive a newsprint original soon!
Q: Why are the papers in bad shape - did you not take care of them?
A: The papers have been carefully stored but not perhaps in the best way. One or more copies of an issue were stored folded in plastic bags in file drawers in the News Review office in the Community Center, where the temperature and relative humidity are often not ideal for long-term storage of newsprint. This paper, which is made from coarse wood pulp, is formulated to be inexpensive and expendable. Impurities in the wood pulp remain in the paper after processing and, when exposed to light, high humidity or atmospheric pollutants, promote discoloration and acidic reactions in the paper. This causes the paper fibers to weaken and break, and the paper gradually browns and crumbles.
Q: Do you have all the papers?
A: Not quite all, there are a few missing out of 80 years-worth. We are basically working with the News Review’s collection of past issues, which is housed in file cabinets in the newsroom at the Community Center. We’ve been able to fill some gaps from holdings of past issues in the Greenbelt Library’s Tugwell Room and the Greenbelt Museum. For issues for which we could not find newsprint originals, we cleaned up the existing PDFs to make them more readable and searchable.
Q: Where is work on the project taking place?
A: Mostly in GAP's workroom, onstage in the gym of the Greenbelt Community Center (thanks to the City!).
Q: How is the funding being used?
A: We purchased a scanner, two computers and peripherals, lots of archival boxes, and tables and shelving for GAP's workroom. We are also paying the UMD student and digital librarian for their work on the project. GAP staff, board and volunteers are all unpaid. We tally the hours volunteers work on the project, though, to use as an in-kind contribution on grant applications.
Q: What does 'digitizing' mean?
A: Taking something that exists in reality and making a replica of it that is described by numbers. In our case, pages of newspaper articles are turned into images that can be searched to help find facts and references.
Q: What's OCR?
A: OCR stands for Optical Character Recognition. It describes techniques used to turn images of printed or photographed characters back into letters and words. It's how they recognize the number on your tags when you get a ticket from a speeding camera. Yippee!