In September 2022, the Illinois Newspaper Project (INP) received a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) to continue digitizing historic Illinois newspapers as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP).
As a result, the INP has launched an opportunity for libraries, museums, historical societies, genealogical societies, and cultural heritage institutions across Illinois to nominate titles to receive long-term preservation and open accessibility through Chronicling America, the national digital newspaper database hosted by the Library of Congress. Newspapers will also be added to the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections, the state’s largest digital newspaper collection created and managed by the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign.
- Look up the title in the Illinois Newspaper Directory
- See which institutions have copies on microfilm
- Reach out to the institution and let them know about this opportunity and why this title would make a good candidate!
If you’re an individual associated with a cultural heritage institution but would like to nominate a title held in an institution other than your own, we recommend reaching out to the holding institution to recommend they nominate the title. Otherwise, you are able to nominate the title with written permission from the institution that owns the microfilm.
Newspapers nominated should contribute to the wealth of Illinois cultural, economic, and political history, and possess research value in areas such as, but not limited to, genealogy, regional or statewide Illinois history or world history from an Illinois perspective, or the history of printing in Illinois.
Newspapers nominated for digitization:
- Must be available on microfilm*
- Must have been published prior to 1964
- Must be free of copyright restriction (note: issues published before 1928 are in the public domain)
- Must not already be freely available online**
*Because the cost of the digitization process from print is significantly higher than from microfilm, and because the goal of this grant is to digitize as much Illinois newspaper content as possible, only newspapers on microfilm will be considered during this grant cycle.
Although we cannot select print newspapers this grant cycle, the Illinois Newspaper Project is committed to the preservation of Illinois newspapers regardless of format. If you have (or know of) historic newspapers that have not been microfilmed, we strongly encourage you to contact us for more information on preservation reformatting of print newspapers.
**Exceptions will be considered if prior digitization of the nominated title does not meet NDNP technical standards
While we understand that not all titles may meet all of the technical criteria below, preference will be given to film that allows us to best meet NDNP standards for digitization:
- Second-generation “print master” microfilm (as opposed to a service copy)
- Film with negative polarity (polarity will be inverted during digitization)
- Film with limited wear, including little to none scratching, tearing, warping
Some Illinois newspapers have been digitized by a commercial vendor and after a period, will be granted free access through the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections. To ensure that the title you wish to nominate hasn’t already been digitized, check the list here.
Nominations are accepted through September 30, 2023. You may nominate newspapers by an online webform or by mail.
The nomination form consists of five sections: general information, eligibility, technical information, newspaper information (tell us more about the newspaper), and a nomination essay. Nomination essays should be below 500 words and explain the historical significance of the newspaper you are nominating. For the essay, you might consider:
Is the newspaper a special type of publication (labor newspaper, farming newspaper, etc.)? Is there something unusual or interesting about the publishers or the readers? Was the newspaper created and used by a specific ethnic, religious, political, or occupational community in Illinois? For what type of research would future researchers use this newspaper? What might future users find especially interesting or unique about the newspaper? Are regional, statewide, national, or global historical events covered in this newspaper in a way that might benefit future researchers, students, or teachers?
If you prefer to complete a physical nomination form, you can download and print out an a nomination form here.
Mail the completed form to us at:
Illinois Newspaper Project
c/o Jessie Knoles
411 Main Library
1408 W. Gregory Dr.
Urbana, IL 61801
What is a cultural heritage institution?
Cultural heritage institutions are repositories or organizations that preserve cultural heritage and memory through the collecting of information sources and primary resources, such as books, newspapers, maps and atlases, photographs, scrapbooks, artifacts, and archival materials. Examples of cultural heritage institutions include libraries, museums, historical societies, and genealogical societies.
Why can’t I nominate physical newspapers?
In order to maximize the amount of content that will be contributed to the national digitized newspaper database, Chronicling America, only microfilmed newspapers are eligible at this time. The costs of preserving newspapers from their original physical formats to digital surrogates is more prohibitive than creating digital surrogates from a microfilmed title. It is our goal to provide free and open access to as many historical newspapers as possible, and focusing on microfilmed newspapers allows us provide access to more titles.
Although we cannot select print newspapers this grant cycle, we are still committed to the preservation of Illinois newspapers regardless of format. If you have historic newspapers that have not been microfilmed, please feel free to contact us for more information on preservation reformatting of print newspapers.
Is there anything you are specifically looking to digitize?
No, there is nothing we are specifically looking to digitize. A winning proposal will demonstrate research value while contributing to the diversity of Illinois newspaper history.
Applicants are invited to write a brief nomination essay explaining the historical significance of the nominated newspaper and why it should be made widely available for research. Nomination essays may consider a newspaper’s geographic coverage; temporal coverage; coverage of specific regional, statewide, and/or national historic events; diversity of creator/reader communities; unique scope of content (labor, agricultural, industrial, etc.); and potential research and educational value.
I am not directly involved with an Illinois cultural heritage institution. Can I still nominate a newspaper for digitization?
Individuals who would like to propose a newspaper for digitization should use the Illinois Newspaper Directory to see which cultural heritage institutions hold microfilmed copies of the newspaper. The directory includes contact information for holding institutions. We encourage individuals to contact these institutions and advocate for their titles to be nominated for this opportunity.
I am connected to an Illinois cultural heritage institution, but I want to nominate a newspaper that is held in another institution. Can I?
In order to nominate a title held in a different cultural heritage institution, you must receive written permission from the holding institution. The nominator and an authoritative staff at the holding institution must fill out a nomination permission form, which should be uploaded as an appendix to the nomination application. The nominator can fill out the nomination form without the help of the cultural heritage institution, though it might be beneficial to collaborate on the proposal.
Can I nominate multiple titles?
Yes, but a separate nomination form will need to be submitted for each title.
How do I submit an application?
Nominations are accepted through an online nomination form. If you prefer to fill out a physical nomination form, you may download a nomination form, print it out, and mail back to us. All applications will be considered regardless of format. The nomination window is July 1 through September 30, 2023.
What if I need help filling out my application?
Please direct any questions regarding the application to our Newspaper Content Coordinator, Jessie Knoles. You can contact her at 217-244-9085 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Information sessions will be held over Zoom in July, August, and September. These sessions will go over any questions you might have about the grant itself, NDNP, or the application form. Official dates will be announced in July.
How can I determine the copyright status of a newspaper?
Newspaper copyright is a bit complex. Newspapers published before January 1, 1928, are in the public domain. For newspapers published between 1928 and 1963, copyright had to be renewed and notice had to be published in the paper. If no renewal was published, then these newspapers should be free of copyright restrictions. Additionally, if copyright was never filed, then newspapers are in the public domain.
Not sure where to start? Click here for Determining Copyright Status of Serial Issues.
Who will decide which titles receive digitization?
The INP staff has established an advisory board comprised of Illinois historians, researchers, and information workers. We have partnered with members from the following institutions to create the advisory board:
- Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum
- The Illinois History and Lincoln Collections, University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign
- The Newberry Library
- Northern Illinois University
Once the nomination period has closed, the advisory board will review nominations and select newspaper titles to digitize for this grant cycle.
What happens if my nominated newspaper is selected?
If your newspaper is selected, you will be contacted by the Illinois Newspaper Project and required to send the microfilm reel(s) to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Please anticipate the microfilm reel(s) to be out of your collection for up to one year. Microfilm reels will be held in a secure, preservation-friendly location on-site for the duration of the grant. Reels can be sent back in advance if there is an urgent need, but we prefer to hold onto the reels until the project is completed as this streamlines any re-shoots. Retaining the film for this period allows us, if necessary, to quickly conduct re-scans of content to ensure we capture to best images possible.
Upon receiving the microfilm reel(s), the Illinois Newspaper Staff will assess the microfilm to ensure it is viable for digitization. Reels will be collated and sent to a vendor for digitization. The vendor will send us back the reels and digital files for quality control. Once we have insured that digital scans and metadata are completed, we will ship back the microfilm reels to the cultural heritage institution.
Will there be future opportunities to digitize newspapers from my collection?
The INP hopes to continue working with Illinois cultural heritage institutions to ensure the preservation of and access to Illinois newspaper heritage. This work often depends on financial support from state and national institutions and donors. We recommended signing up for the Illinois Newspaper Project mailing list in order to learn about future opportunities.