State Historical Society of Iowa and the Advantage Companies to microfilm and digitize state’s collection of newspapers
DES MOINES – The process to save the first draft of Iowa history just got a lot smoother.
The State Historical Society of Iowa today unveiled a sweeping new plan to preserve more than 12 million pages of newspapers in its collection, giving Iowans greater access to more than 300 titles dating to the state’s pioneer days in the 1830s.
Under the authority of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, the State Historical Society has signed a 5-year contract to loan the newspapers to the Advantage Companies, a Cedar Rapids business with a division dedicated to the preservation and digital access of historical newspapers. Advantage will take on the ambitious new project at no cost to the state, and ownership of the physical newspapers will remain with the State Historical Society.
Advantage and the State Historical Society have already partnered on several preservation projects since 2011. But the new agreement clears the way for Advantage technicians to increase and accelerate the preservation of newspapers dating back to 1837, all of which have been gathered from communities and publishers statewide.
Starting this spring, the newspapers stored at the State Historical Building in Des Moines will be transported to Advantage’s secure 80,000-square-foot records-management facility in Cedar Rapids. Technicians will first photograph the pages onto microfilm (which remains the gold standard for newspaper preservation) and then digitally scan the microfilm to provide wider access to the public. Advantage will take similar steps in the future with newspapers at the State Historical Society’s Centennial Building in Iowa City.
“Continuing to preserve Iowa’s fragile historical newspapers and increasing public access to the collection in a sustainable way have always been high priorities for the State Historical Society,” State Archivist Anthony Jahn said. “In our exhaustive efforts to develop the best solution, the importance of newspapers to every community statewide was top of mind and drove our work to position 180 years of historical newspapers for the benefit of all Iowans.”
Advantage Preservation, the division of the company that focuses on microfilming and digitizing newspapers, will continue to work with local publishers to negotiate copyrights. Content printed before 1924 is considered fair use; content published since then belongs to the publisher.
“As an Iowa company, Advantage is excited to take an even more active role in preserving Iowa newspapers,” Advantage Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Kiley said. “We believe the preservation of our collective history is a shared responsibility, and we’re proud to continue our work with the state of Iowa to ensure that our ‘first draft of history’ is available for current and future generations.”
Advantage also plans to explore ways to make Iowa’s historical newspapers more accessible to Iowa students as a classroom resource.
The soon-to-be microfilmed and digitized newspapers will enhance the State Historical Society’s vast collection of previously microfilmed content, which currently comprises more than 24 million pages from more than 650 statewide titles on more than 44,000 rolls of microfilm.
Anyone can access the state’s newspaper collection, free of charge, by visiting the State Historical Society of Iowa Research Centers during the recently expanded hours of 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday at the State Historical Building, 600 E. Locust St. in Des Moines, and the Centennial Building, 402 Iowa Ave. in Iowa City.
The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its three divisions – the Iowa Arts Council, Produce Iowa - State Office of Media Production and the State Historical Society of Iowa – empower Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to the people, places and points of pride that define our state. The department’s work enables Iowa to be recognized as a state that fosters creativity and serves as a catalyst for innovation where the stories of Iowa are preserved and communicated to connect past, present and future generations.