'Courier' archives now available online

By Jennifer Burke/Catholic Courier    |    01.11.2013
Category: Local News

Have you ever wondered what kinds of articles the Catholic Courier published 100 years ago, when it was known as the Catholic Journal? Now you can find out without leaving the comfort of your home.

The Catholic Courier's archives, which date back to the paper's founding in 1889, have been digitized and now are available online.

"This has been on my wish list since 2000," noted Karen Franz, the newspaper's general manager and editor.

Previously, Courier articles published between 1889 and 2004 -- when the newspaper began publishing all of its content online -- had only been available on reels of microfilm housed at the Courier offices and a handful of libraries in Monroe County, including St. John Fisher College's Lavery Library and Nazareth College's Lorette Wilmot Library. Last year, the Lavery and Wilmot libraries teamed up to fund the digitization project for the Rochester Regional Library Council. The Northern New York Library Network did the work of digitizing the dozens of reels of microfilm, and the newly digitized archives are full-text searchable. They can be accessed via the links in an Editor's Note at the end of this story.

The new archives also will be available on the Courier's website, www.catholiccourier.com, later in 2014, Franz said. The Courier's website already includes archived content from 2004 to the present.

Lavery Library Director Melissa Jadlos said the impetus for the project came in the spring of 2012, when a library patron asked a staff member to look up an article in the Courier's microfilm archives.

"We usually ask people to come in and do it for themselves, but she wasn't able to come in," Jadlos said.

When librarian Marianne Simmons mentioned that it would be nice to have the Courier's archives available in digital format, Jadlos remembered the RRLC's Historical Newspapers project, which was seeking collections of old newspapers to digitize. The library council has been digitizing newspapers because microfilm is not a user-friendly medium, said Kourtney Blackburn, a librarian with the RRLC.

"You load this film onto a reel and have to browse issue by issue. It's not searchable. It's not really intuitive, and a lot of places don't let you view their microfilm without assistance from a librarian or a staff member," Blackburn said.

The RRLC has been digitizing newspaper archives for about three years, and so far has uploaded content from about 15 or 20 newspapers, said Kathy Miller, the RRLC's executive director. The archived newspapers have proven to be very popular, Miller said, noting that the RRLC's Historical Newspapers website had been viewed 1 million times within its first year of existence.

Franz said she was thrilled when Jadlos and Blackburn approached her with the idea of digitizing the Courier's archives, which was something she and the Courier's board had been wanting to do for quite some time.

"We had gotten cost estimates in the past, and they were wildly prohibitive. We just couldn't in all honesty come up with the funding to do it commercially," she said.

This time, however, the project would cost the Courier nothing, since the Lavery and Wilmot libraries had agreed to split the project's cost of more than $9,000, Jadlos said. Bishop Emeritus Matthew H. Clark granted approval for the project prior to his retirement, and last fall Jadlos' staff shipped the library's reels of microfilm off to be digitized. The digitization was completed in December 2012, making the Courier's archives accessible to everyone, regardless of their geographic location or their ability to get to a library, Franz said.

"We're thrilled that the archives are available, and very, very grateful for the contributions of our friends at the Lavery and Wilmot libraries, as well as the efforts of the RRLC," she remarked.

The 115 years of newly digitized Courier archival content constitute one of the most complete records the RRLC has in its collection of historical newspapers, Miller said. Newspaper archives are a great community resource, added Catherine Doyle, director of the Lorette Wilmot Library. Many people use them to conduct genealogical research, and one Nazareth professor is planning to use the archives to track the history of social-justice movements in the Rochester area, she noted.

"I think that people think of it maybe as a Catholic resource, but it's more than just religion," Jadlos agreed. "There are so many articles about the local charities, and social justice and local history and economics and regional stuff."

EDITOR'S NOTE: This story has been updated to reflect integration of the RRLC newspaper archive into the NYS Historic Newspaper project during the spring of 2014. Archives for the Catholic Courier and its predecessor titles can now be found at the following locations:

1889-1929 http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/np00020005/

1929-1933 http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/np00020001/

1933-1945  http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/np00020002/

1945-1968  http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/np00020003/

1969-1989  http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/np00020004/

1989-2004  http://nyshistoricnewspapers.org/lccn/np00020006/

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