Local historians are getting the first taste of what will become a feast of information as the city’s and region’s newspapers become available through an online searchable database.
It will replace a painstaking, imperfect system of research based on volunteers indexing newspapers by subject.
“Right now it’s in soft launch,” acknowledged Thompson Nicola Regional District director of libraries Marc Saunders.
The project, several years in the making, began earlier this month with availability of Kamloops Daily News archived copies to 2001. Kamloops This Week is expected to be online in May.
The archive is presented in a clean, easy-to-search style.
“We want to do all the papers in the TNRD,” Saunders said. “We’re able to do this longer-term preservation.”
The library has in the past made available online searchable stories from city newspapers through a commercial database. But, Saunders said, the service was expensive and provided text-only stories.
The newspaper archive, dubbed Newshound, offers searchable images of the papers, including photos, layout and advertising.
“The goal is to present papers for communities long term so people can reflect back on their history and have that reference point,” Saunders said.
Andrew Yarmie, head of the city’s heritage commission, has spent plenty of time thumbing through index cards at the Kamloops Museum and Archives.
“It’s important to have the newspapers to tell the stories,” he said.
“I’ve always used newspapers for every research project I’ve done.”
Yarmie said the index-based system works for news events, for example, but is impractical for larger sociological research projects.
The project began with the easy part first. For the past 15 years or so, electronic images of Kamloops newspapers have been in existence, but not readily available for research.
Saunders said the library is able to get these editions quickly online and make them searchable.
Newspapers from the 1990s from across the region will be made available in the next two years.
Staff are working on digitizing older microfilm and making images available online.
“The tricky thing for us is we’re trying to get good optical recognition,” Saunders said. “We’re dependent on that. We’re running into film that’s really dark.”
Outside the technical problems are copyright challenges. One of the biggest treasures the library hopes to make available is the Inland Sentinel. Newshound has dates blocked out to make the Inland Sentinel available back to 1871.
When it shut the doors in the 1980s, the newspaper was owned by Thomson Corp. Saunders said the billionaire Thomson family owns its rights and he has so far been unsuccessful in getting any correspondence returned from the Thomson family trust.
“I won’t give up on them,” he pledged.
The Merritt Herald, as well as now-closed publications from the Nicola Valley, will be part of the project.
Saunders said he also wants to digitize the Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal, which he called “a gem.” But, those rights are owned by publisher Black Press.
Once newspapers are 80 years old, they are no longer covered by copyright law. The archive is available at arch.tnrdlib.ca.