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NE State Newspaper Project - NSHS & NSGS
History | List of Volunteers
Nebraska State Newspaper Project
By Cindy Steinhoff Drake, Library Curator
Nebraska State Historical Society
The Nebraska State Newspaper Project started in 1986 when the Director of the Nebraska State Historical Society (NSHS), Jim Hanson, appointed three staff members Cindy S. Drake, Richard Spencer, and Dolores Ambroz to a committee to implement a computerized state-wide newspaper indexing project. This was to be done in conjunction with the Nebraska State Genealogical Society (NSGS). The representatives from NSGS were Patricia Wagner, Allen Dripps, and Georgene Sones. The initial plan was produced by NSHS staff member John E. Carter and titled State-Wide Newspaper Indexing, A Preliminary Plan.
NSHS had been involved with newspaper indexing early in its history. A manual card index to all of the territorial newspapers was one of its earliest projects. Work Projects Administration (WPA) workers during the 1930s and 1940s completed various indexing projects of Nebraska newspapers. Staff and volunteers later typed much of this handwritten work. Today these indexes exist in card indexes and bound volumes that are still used in the Library/Archives. By the 1950s, the Society hired staff to index the Lincoln newspapers (Star & Journal) as well as the Sunday Omaha World-Herald on 3x5 index cards. This project continued into the mid-1980s, when the indexing was completed through 1980. Staff and volunteers also added indexing for various years of other newspapers and periodicals to this finding aid. Today this index still remains in hundreds of catalog card drawers in the Library/Archives at NSHS.
NSGS members had been indexing newspapers for several years as well, mainly as a result of NSHS giving them the original newspapers that NSHS had stored off-site since the 1950s after they were microfilmed. Gene Bang, a member of NSGS, had computerized over 62,000 entries in a mainframe computer from handwritten and typed indexed abstractions compiled by other NSGS members. As part of this project, Mr. Bang assigned numbered codes to at least 1,432 Nebraska newspapers so indexers did not need to use the name of the newspaper for each entry. In 1983 and 1984, NSGS published this indexing in the following five volumes: 1870 Series, Vol. 1; 1880 Series Vol. 1; 1890 Series, Vol. 1, and 1900 Series Vols. 1 & 2. By 1986, NSGS no longer had access to a mainframe computer and the remaining tapes were not useable to them. With the formation of this new committee, NSHS offered to collect this data in the state main frame computer as the basis of the project and gather additional indexing from volunteers which would be added to it. Ultimately, researchers could access this database at NSHS, or through microfiche of the indexing produced for distribution.
Volunteers were given the option of indexing with a program that they could use on their home computers or continue to manually index by using abstraction forms. With the help of several individuals (NSHS staff and NSGS members), Cindy S. Drake compiled a guide to indexing for the project in the late 1980s titled Nebraska State Newspaper Project Guide to Indexing Nebraska Newspapers (Preliminary Guide). The last update of this guide was done in 1991.
In 1988, Ms. Drake started a database that lists Nebraska newspapers that have been indexed, whether at NSHS or at other institutions in the state. The location of the indexes is given along with the format (abstraction forms, file cards, part of the NSNP database, etc). Ms. Drake intends to maintain this database and have it available on the NSHS website in the near future.
The management of the volunteers became more than the historical society could manage, as funding and staffing became more limited in the early 1990s. By 1991, NSHS turned most of the project (managing volunteers, distributing abstraction forms that formerly belonged to NSGS, etc.) over to NSGS, but NSHS maintained the database on the state main frame. Ms. Drake continued to oversee the indexing by volunteers who worked directly with NSHS. Although microfiche of the database was produced twice, access to the database was on a limited basis. In the late 1990s NSHS began to look for ways to download the database from the state mainframe and make it more useable to a wider audience. The NSHS website could not handle such a database, so Associate Director Andrea Faling contacted NEGenWeb for their assistance. On March 15, 2000, John Carter sent the CD containing the entire database to Ted and Carole Miller of NEGenWeb. The number of entries had grown from over 62,000, when the project started, to over 150,000 entries when they were turned over to the Millers.
With improvements in technology, NSGS was able to develop its own computerized indexing program for volunteers in the mid-1990s. This program was more efficient than the one previously developed by the joint efforts of NSHS & NSGS. They were able to complete their computerization of the thousands of handwritten and typed abstraction forms and continue publication efforts that they had begun in the 1980s. Their newspaper publications are available for sale at NeSGS.org (click on NEWSPAPER ABSTRACTS). Only the five volumes listed above are available online through this project. The rest may be purchased in book form from NSGS.
The individuals (volunteers, NSHS staff, and NSGS members not mentioned previously) listed below made significant contributions to the NSNP project during its early years (with some still volunteering). NSHS would like to give special recognition to Joanna Ross for the help she gave developing the indexing guide and for the number of years she indexed her hometown newspaper; and to Ardelle Holtorf, who continues to index her hometown newspaper at NSHS regularly.
(Reported from NSHS Records)
Duane D. Dorman
Pamela McGovern Joy
Lincoln Public School,
Department of Special Education Students
Gerald E. Sherard
Former & Present NSHS Staff
(Not mentioned previously)
Cather Center Staff
Jean O'Gara Meyers (aka Doris Jenkins)
"100's of volunteers from NSGS spent endless hours abstracting the old newspapers. ... (and) many volunteers who belonged to local genealogical societies (rather than) the state genealogical society."
YOU know who you are! Thanks to every one of you.
Georgene Sones, NSGS
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NE State Newspaper Extraction Project
© 2000, 2001 for the NEGenWeb Project by Ted & Carole Miller