01/12/11 337 W, 1 I - + 4 - 2 How to Read Back Issues of the News & Observer

Question from a reader, how do you access the archives of old News & Observer issues? Do you visit the newspaper? Does a web site exist for same? The answer is neither. Instead, back issues are available on microfilm. Local locations with copies of old papers-- notably also the Raleigh Times, which was the city's other daily paper for decades-- include the state library on Jones Street, the library at State College (sue me for using their historical name), and a couple branches of the Wake County Public Library System.

At the Cameron Village branch, they have a single microfilm reader and a century or more's worth of papers on film. Better bet is Olivia Raney Local History Library, off Poole Road at the Beltline. They have a research room with six or eight film readers. And a staff available to instruct and assist on the process. Bring a memory stick, as the film readers at Olivia Raney are connected to computers. You can produce very good quality scans of what you're viewing. Or you can print and pay for printed copies there.

Reading old newspapers is a blast, let me add. And the learning curve to using microfilm is hardly steep. Next question, are our local papers digitized anywhere? Don't believe so. Google News Archives has made quite a few newspapers available (and search-able) nationally, but I have not yet noticed News & Observer or Raleigh Times issues in there. You can still find local stories, however. They were just reported by other papers.

For a wee introduction to microfilm, see these slides of mine from a 2006 presentation on researching fire department histories. Here's a prior blog posting on the work flow that I have utilized at Olivia Raney. And these four electronic books of mine demonstrate the quality of said newspaper scans. More on the last item a bit later. Might have bound copies of those four e-books available in the future. Contain your enthusiasm, please.

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