Jow Suilmann

University Libraries is about to begin a project to digitize from microfilm, 100,000 pages of newspapers printed in New Mexico during the late-19th and early-20th century.

The National Endowment for the Humanities has presented UNM Libraries with a $351,642 grant to do the work.  Director of the grant, Kathlene Ferris says UNM is working with the University of North Texas, which has experience in the area. The project will convert some of UNM's extensive newspaper microfilm collections into a digital format that can be viewed and searched online.

The New Mexico Digital Newspaper Project Grant will cover scanning of the microfilm, enhancing and delivery of New Mexico newspapers published between 1960 and 1922 that capture the artistic, literary, cultural, economic and political events of New Mexico.

Grant project manager Kathlene Ferris says, "The University of New Mexico has been collecting and microfilming New Mexico newspapers for many years.  This grant will allow us to take the next step in making these valuable resources more widely available through the internet to the citizens of New Mexico."

The New Mexico Newspaper Digitization Project builds on an earlier NEH initiative, the United States Newspaper Program, which enabled UNM Libraries to locate, catalog and microfilm New Mexico's Newspapers.

Michael Kelly, associate dean for scholarly resources says, "Since UNM Libraries hold the largest collection of New Mexico newspapers on microfilm we want to take the initiative and make these and other unique resources freely available to everyone in New Mexico."

Currently, the NEH does not fund digitization of Spanish language newspapers due to the difficulty of character recognition software to read foreign languages.  Ferris is hopeful that by next year software improvements will be made to accommodate the digitization of Spanish language papers and could be included in the subsequent grant requests.

An advisory board comprised of New Mexicans from across the state will make the decisions about which newspapers are digitized.  The board includes Ferris, Stephen Hussman, head of the Department of Archives and Special Collections at New Mexico State University; Durwood Ball, associate professor of History at UNM and editor of the NM Historical Review; Mike Kelly, associate dean of Scholarly Resources, Special Collections and the Center for Southwest Research at UNM; and Faith Yoman, Southwest Collections librarian at the New Mexico State Library.

When the digitization is completed in 2012, the newspapers will join the more than 100,000 photographs, documents, films and music currently in University Libraries' "New Mexico Digital Archives and on the Library of Congress' "Chronicling America."

As digitization is complete the newspaper pages will first be posted in the Library of Congress.  The National Digital Newspaper Program is a collaboration between the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Media contact: Karen Wentworth (505) 277-5627; e-mail: