Rutgers University will digitize thousands of old New Jersey newspapers over the next two years as part of a national program to make vintage broadsheets available online.
New Jersey received a $186,204 federal grant to join the National Digital Newspaper Program, making it the 44th state to participate in the partnership between the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress.
“Reading about something in a history book gives you a different perspective than actually being able to read about it as it’s happening,” said project director and Rutgers University digital archivist Caryn Radick.
“You can get immersed in the story and continue to read what happened.”
Rutgers University Libraries aims to digitize and catalog at least 100,000 pages from newspapers originally published between 1836 and 1922 that are not currently available online, including the Whig papers and old editions of the Newark Star-Ledger.
New Jersey’s state archives and state library will also participate in the project.
Scholars, history buffs, and anyone with a piqued curiosity will have the chance to experience N.J. history as citizens at the time would have, Radick said.
“It’s the 100th anniversary of the shark attacks at the New Jersey Shore,” said Radick, who contrasted how local publications and national newspapers covered the killings. “The local papers had a much different account of what happened, sort of the horror about somebody down the street being attacked, versus across the country where it was more of this wonder about how is it sharks attack people, because my impression is that they didn’t think that happened before.”
The Jersey Mosquito of Perth Amboy (1919) is one of the newspapers being considered for digitization. (Image courtesy of Rutgers University Libraries)
People now have to travel to the state archives in Trenton or a similar research institution to view the periodicals on microfilm.
Other states awarded grants this year to participate in the national project include Alaska, Colorado and Maine.
According to Rutgers, New Jersey was the last of the original 13 Colonies to publish its own newspapers.