We recently completed digitization of the newspaper from Leon High School here in Tallahassee. Started in the 1920s, the paper has gone through several name changes to end up at Leon High Life today. Our recent additions to the newspaper started in 1988 and bring us up to the end of Spring 2019. To write this update, I took a look at the newspapers published just at the end of the school year.
As a school publication, there are few to no issues published beyond the beginning of June. These papers are the last hurrah for the seniors, celebrating the next steps for those leaving, looking back at the year of academics and athletics.
They also used these issues to talk about what they’d loved and hated that year, making these issues time capsules to what the kids thought was cool at the time.
But they were also looking forward to their summer and looking at what would be on deck to go see, hear, and do for their last few months of freedom if they were Seniors or just looking forward to the break if there was more high school ahead of them.
Since September of last year, FSU Libraries has partnered with Leon High School, Florida’s oldest continually accredited high school, to digitize their school yearbooks and newspaper and provide access to those materials through the FSU Digital Library. This has been a rewarding community partnership for the Digital Library Center and Special Collections & Archives here at FSU as it has allowed us to work closely with members of the Tallahassee community and also given those of us working on the project, many not Tallahassee natives, a unique view into the life of high schoolers in our city starting in the 1920s.
A new batch of Leon High School (LHS) newspapers was just loaded into the FSU Digital Library. This set spans from 1957 to 1987 during which our area, and the world, saw a massive amount of growth and change, especially technological change. The 1950s issues sport ads for film-based cameras, record shops, and lunch counter drug stores. Fast forward to the 1980s where cassette tapes, college radio, and computers all enter the high school parlance. Not to mention the cultural and social changes these issues record from the point of view of a high schooler. It is a truly fascinating way to look at the history of Tallahassee, Florida and beyond.
In collaboration with Leon High School, we just finished digitizing the first batch of their newspapers which date from 1920-1956. As with most collaborative efforts, this was a multi-step process involving several parties and today we’re going to briefly discuss the digitization portion of this project. The goal is to have the entire Leon High Newspaper Collection digitized, loaded into DigiNole and made accessible to the community.
The first step in the process was to take a glance at what we were working with and to prep the papers for digitization. The newspapers were picked up from Leon High and delivered to Strozier Library neatly sorted and grouped by decade, with most stored in protective mylar. Considering their age, the papers themselves were in decent condition and they arrived stored in several large archival boxes.
The plan was to efficiently digitize these objects using multiple pieces of equipment at once; larger issues would be digitized with our overhead reprographic camera set up while the smaller ones would be scanned on our Epson 11000XL flatbed scanners.
In order to get started, we sorted the newspapers by size and had them distributed to their respective scanning stations. This allowed us to save time by not having to manually refocus and position our overhead IQ180 camera each time a different-sized newspaper was encountered. Leaving the camera in one position allowed for faster capture time and guaranteed each photo would be captured at the specified resolution.
When photographing this sort of material, it’s important to reduce as much depth as possible. Peaks and valleys caused by folds or creases in the objects can sometimes cause problems when trying to achieve evenly-sharp focus throughout the frame. Thankfully, most of the newspapers from this first batch laid relatively flat without too many folds or bumps.
We were able to flatten the few troublesome papers by carefully utilizing a set of custom-sized glass plates. By lowering the angles of the lights and by using low-glare glass, we were able to prevent any unwanted reflections from showing up in the final images.
These problems typically don’t occur when using flatbed scanners since closing the lid does a good job of flattening most objects. The scanners also allow for even lighting across the entire object without the risk of unwanted reflections, especially with non-glossy material such as these newspapers.
Images from the flatbed scanner were cropped and saved to our servers directly from the VueScan software while images captured with our camera setup were edited and processed with Capture One CH.
While both pieces of software are quite powerful, they both have very different features. We primarily use VueScan as a scanning/processing software, while Capture One has the added bonus of offering file management and batch processing features as well as powerful capture tools. This allows us to quickly capture hundreds of photos consecutively and apply a set of edits/crops to the entire project at once. Capture One CH also offers specialized auto-crop and batch-crop features, which can be a massive time saver.
Once the images are all processed and saved onto our servers, they move onto final steps which include quality control, metadata creation, and loading of the images into DigiNole. Once the project has been safely uploaded, we will be ready to start all over with the second batch of newspapers! These newspapers will become part of the Leon High School Collection where we already have a full set of yearbooks for our users to browse.
We are ready to start digitizing the second batch of Leon High Newspapers after the holiday break, so keep an eye out for them to show up in Diginole later in 2019!
Discussing “hidden” collections is a popular pastime in archival circles. We all suffer from collections that have simply never been processed or made discoverable enough for our patrons to find them. It becomes even more difficult when archives staff doesn’t even know when collections exist and there is no discovery tool either for them to easily find them.
This is what we found a few months ago when our graduate assistants, when searching for a newspaper issue we supposedly had, found 4 boxes of newspapers no one knew we had down in our sub-basement shelving unit. There were no finding aids or catalog records; just inventories inside the boxes themselves which, as you can imagine, were not all that helpful unless you knew to go looking for the very helpfully named “map case oversize box 1.”
When this unknown cache of newspapers was found, along with a list of newspaper sources dug up from our associate dean’s desk cupboard, we decided digitizing the newspapers as well as creating finding aids and catalog records was a good idea. Not only were these newspaper collections interesting and hitherto unknown to us and our patrons, they fit some digitization goals we had for the summer; mainly, using and training more with our large format overhead camera.
This newly minted collection in the FSU Digital Library actually holds materials of nine different collections, some entirely composed of newspapers and some the newspapers are only a piece to the overall manuscript collection. The newspapers range in dates from the mid-1600s to the early 1920s. Geographically, they span from the British Isles to the east coast of the United States. The collection is particularly strong in antebellum and Civil War era newspapers published in the American south. Enjoy exploring the new digital collection of these previously “hidden” materials!
Each issue is fully text searchable using Advanced Search in the FSUDL as well as browsable by year and month. We hope to continue to grow this collection over the following years. A larger collection of the Florida Flambeau is currently available in the Internet Archive as well.