Opportunity to participate: nominate a newspaper to be digitized and made freely available for research!

The Illinois Newspaper Project (INP) is now accepting nominations for newspapers to be digitized as part of the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP), funded by a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities. All Illinois cultural heritage institutions (including libraries, museums, archives, and historical and genealogical societies) are invited to nominate newspapers on microfilm held in their collections. 100,000 pages of newspapers will be digitized and made freely available online.  

The Illinois Newspaper Project has participated in the NDNP, digitizing and providing free access to Illinois newspapers, since 2009. Digitized newspapers are made available in Chronicling America, the NDNP’s national digital newspaper database.  

Illinois newspapers digitized for the NDNP are also added to the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections (IDNC) at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. The IDNC is the largest freely available collection of digitized Illinois newspapers. It includes Illinois newspapers digitized by the Illinois Newspaper Project with funding from many sources, including the NDNP, the University of Illinois, and private donors. In addition, the IDNC provides cross-searchability and long-term digital preservation for Illinois newspapers digitized by other Illinois institutions. 

Nomination Criteria  

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.  

Eligible newspapers

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 

Technical considerations

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 

Nomination Process 

Nominations will be accepted through September 30, 2023, and may be submitted either through a web form or by mail. Both forms are available on the Participate page of the Illinois Newspaper Project website. 

The nomination form has sections for general information, eligibility, technical information, description of newspaper, and an essay portion. Essays should be 500 words or fewer. Essays should explain the historical importance and research value of the nominated newspaper and why the public would benefit from online access to it. 

We cannot accept nominations from individuals, but individuals who have identified newspapers of interest are encouraged to collaborate with Illinois institutions that hold the newspapers in their collections. To determine which institution holds a specific newspaper, search for the title in the Illinois Newspaper Directory. We encourage individuals to reach out to institutions and advocate for titles of interest. 

Review of Nominations 

Nominations will be reviewed by an advisory board comprised of Illinois Newspaper Project staff and members of other Illinois institutions—including the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, the Illinois History and Lincoln Collections at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, the Newberry Library in Chicago, and Northern Illinois University. The review process will begin only after the application period has closed. 

In their review, the Advisory Board will be considering the following: 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? 

Selected Titles 

Winning nominations will be selected by the end of the December 2023. Selected titles will be digitized and made freely available to all researchers through Chronicling America and the Illinois Digital Newspaper Collections. An additional preservation microfilm copy will also be created. The additional microfilm reel will be sent to the Library of Congress for permanent retention.  

If your nomination is chosen, it will be the responsibility of the cultural heritage institution to ship the microfilm reel(s) to the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. (UIUC Preservation Services can provide guidance for the shipment of accepted materials.) Illinois Newspaper Project staff will assess the reels and prepare them for digitization. Reels will then be sent to a vendor for digitization. The holding institution must understand that, if selected, their material will be out of their 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. 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. 

More information can be found on our website’s Participate page. If you have any questions about the opportunity or application, please email us at inp@library.illinois.edu or call our Newspaper Content Coordinator, Jessie Knoles, at 217-244-9085. 

Ready to nominate? Access the web form.

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