The Library now has permanent access to a collection of digitized Pittsburgh newspapers. Although the database is called ProQuest Historical Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, the collection is actually a couple dozen different newspapers related to the Post-Gazette, which did not begin publication under that title until 1927. This collection boasts newspapers dating back to 1786.
Fans of ProQuest’s digitized newspapers will be both pleased and disappointed with the collection. On the one hand, it’s a digitized newspaper collection so what’s not to like, right? And the image quality is vastly improved from ProQuest’s first forays into newspaper digitization. (Regretably, some of the nation’s most important newspapers were among the first to be digitized, and the low-tech processes that consequently produced those digitized copies now suffer by comparison with more recently digitized newspapers.)
The disappointing part is that ProQuest has abandoned its practice of “article segmentation”, which is the process that enables you to perform a keyword search, and retrieve a set of articles with those keywords. Instead you will now retrieve entire pages that contain your keywords. If you’re familiar with Chronicling America, then you will recognize this kind of newspaper digitization. Unlike Chronicling America, though, the ProQuest interface currently offers no easy way to perform proximity searches. (Consult the ProQuest page on our Database Quick Guide for the basics on performing proximity searches, as well as other useful keyword searching techniques). Article segmentation is also what makes it possible to limit searches by document types such as articles, advertisements, cartoons, and so forth.
The number of titles in this database is exciting, since ProQuest usually sells its digitized newspapers one-title-at-a-time. It’s probably not pure generosity on their part, though: the collection is a bibliographic snag that we have not yet been able completely to untangle. So if you’re looking to browse specific titles or editions, prepare to get a little frustrated.