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Libraries Receive Grant to Digitize Vermont’s Historic Newspapers

The University of Vermont of Vermont Libraries has been awarded funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) in the amount $391,552 to support the Vermont Digital Newspaper Project.

The UVM Libraries will work collaboratively with partners in the Vermont Department of Libraries, the Ilsley Public Library of Middlebury, and the Vermont Historical Society to select, digitize, and make available up to 100,000 pages of Vermont newspapers, published between 1836 and 1922, from the collections of the Vermont Department of Libraries and the University of Vermont. The digitized newspapers will be made freely available to the public via the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America database.

The project builds upon work of the NEH-funded Vermont Newspaper Project which, from 1997 to 2001, identified, cataloged and microfilmed close to 1,000 historical Vermont newspaper titles in over 3,000 libraries, historical societies, and other repositories throughout the state.

By 1830, many towns in Vermont had their own local newspapers. Examples include Brandon’s Vermont Telegraph, a reform newspaper that supported women’s rights, temperance, vegetarianism, anti-slavery, and the abolishment of capital punishment, and Woodstock’s Working Man’s Gazette, a voice for farmers, mechanics, and artisans in the 1830’s.

The Vermont Digital Newspaper Project will provide a window into Vermont’s participation in key moments in American history, such as abolition of slavery, the Civil War, westward expansion, the influenza pandemic, and the First World War.

Project partners talk about the immeasurable impact digital access to these materials will provide for researchers.

Project Director Birdie MacLennan, of the UVM Libraries says, “This will go a long way in dissolving information barriers by offering an important link to Vermont history, for scholars, researchers, historians, genealogists and the general public. It’s a dream come true for users, who have been asking us for years when Vermont newspaper content will be made available online. We are pleased to now be able to say: Coming soon, to a computer near you!”

“We’re really thrilled to be partnering with UVM and others,” says State Librarian Martha Reid. “The Vermont Newspaper collection is one of the state library’s most widely used. It will wonderful to have it freely available to the world. Particularly to Vermonters who are doing local history or family research, this will be an invaluable resource.”

Chris Kirby, of the Ilsley Public Library says, “We have lots of patrons who come in doing genealogical research and this will greatly enhance their abilities. They’ll be able to search ancestors by last name and call up any stories about them.”

Vermont Historical Society Librarian Paul Carnahan says, “It will have a tremendous impact on local history research in Vermont. A lot of research boils down to information found in newspapers and until now there has been no easy way to get at it except sitting in a dark room with microfilm and winding your way through reels one at a time. It will be like day and night.”

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