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Newspaper Digitization Pilot Project: Interim Report

Newspaper Digitization Pilot Project: Interim Report

November 4, 2017

The National Heritage Digitization Strategy (NHDS) Steering Committee released an interim report on a pilot project conducted this year to digitize newspapers.

In winter 2017, with the generous funding of the Salamander Foundation, the National Heritage Digitization Strategy (NHDS) embarked on a project to learn more about newspaper digitization in Canada and to add digitized titles to the national collection.

The pilot took part in two phases:

  1. Consulting with organizations with experience digitizing newspaper to gather best practices and recommendations.
  2. Digitizing a set of newspaper titles from Library and Archives Canada’s (LAC) collection to test the lessons learned from the consultations and to add to the national discussion.

The interim report outline the themes and lessons learned from the consultations with six organizations (Bibliothèque et Archives nationales du Québec (BAnQ), Canadiana, Library and Archives Canada, Our Digital World, Simon Fraser University, and University of Alberta).

Some highlights include:

  • The number of Canadian newspaper titles is vast and easy to underestimate.
  • Organizations adopt project-based approaches as opportunities (funding, equipment, resources, and partnerships) present themselves. This can lead to inventive methods but fragmented results.
  • Because of its relative stability and consistency, microfilm is by far the most common format digitized. Digitizing paper titles is mostly avoided because of their irregular formats and high cost.
  • Optical character recognition (OCR) is imperfect but critical. Organizations invest ongoing resources to improve results.
  • Clearing copyright can be daunting but is necessary. In many cases, publishers are open to discussing options.
  • Privacy concerns are few, but need to be taken seriously. Organizations need to balance access to information with protection of personal information.
  • Digitized newspapers appeal to wide audiences who value quantity over quality. Organizations almost universally adopt free and open access models.
  • Organizations see opportunities to share experiences and build on expertise; aggregate collections for improved discovery; explore and support smaller community titles, particularly those using non-Latin scripts; and build digitization capacity in smaller organizations.

Based on the principles and directions identified in the National Heritage Digitization Strategy, Library and Archives Canada focused on digitizing First Nation’s titles and obtained permission from publishers to digitize:

  • Windspeaker (2005 to 2015)
  • Turtle Island News (2001 to 2013)
  • Ha-Shilth-Sa (1974 to 2002)

The final report will outline the results of the consultations and the digitization pilot, including how newspapers could be included under the NHDS, and share best practices for newspaper digitization projects.


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