Digital Newspaper Programs : Preserving Arizona’s Newspapers

The Arizona State Library, Archives and Public Records (LAPR), in partnership with the University of Arizona, has received a $279,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to continue digitizing historic newspaper collections.

This is the 4th National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP) grant received by LAPR. Between 2008-2012, LAPR digitized approximately 380,000 pages and made them available on both the Library of Congress’ “Chronicling America” site and on the Arizona Historical Digital Newspapers  platform. This new grant adds another 100,000 pages, bringing the total online newspaper collection to nearly half a million pages.


Before Arizona received statehood in 1912, more than 200 newspaper titles were published in 60 towns. In 1991, LAPR began the Arizona Newspaper Program, which sought to preserve these early newspapers on microfilm. Despite its dated reputation, microfilm remains the standard for long-term preservation. If kept in the right environment, microfilm can last up to 500 years.  Microfilm is also an essential component of the digitization process because the online copies are made from scans of the film.  To date, LAPR has microfilmed over 1.5 million pages of newsprint. The negatives are kept in cold storage, and diazo “use-copies” are available for research at the Polly Rosenbaum State Archives and History Building using state of the art digital microfilm readers.

Microfilm reader

Over the first three cycles of the NDNP grant, LAPR digitized 68 historical titles, all published between 1859-1922. These titles chronicle the Arizona Territory on its journey to statehood, and document the development and early identity of Arizona as a frontier, when it would sometimes take weeks or months for outside news to reach the territory. Through these papers readers see Arizona grow and change with the arrival of new technologies – the telegraph system sped up communication, railroads and automobiles made travel easier, and the seemingly ever-expanding mining and agricultural industries grew Arizona’s economy.

Arizona Republican 5-22-1920
(Advertisement in The Arizona RepublicanMay 3, 1919)

With this fourth grant cycle, the priorities for choosing which titles to digitize have shifted. In addition to filling some gaps in the earlier runs, the project will focus on titles that represent under-served voices and communities. To that end, LAPR hopes to digitize non-English language newspapers including El Tucsonense (1915-1959), one of the longest-running Spanish-language Mexican American newspapers in Arizona, and Ádahooníłígíí (1943-1957), the first Navajo language newspaper. Other high priority titles are the 93rd Blue Helmet, which served the Buffalo Soldiers at Fort Huachuca, and the Poston Chronicle, published during World War II for the Poston War Relocation Center, a Japanese internment camp.

Fire department at Poston Relocation Camp
(Image of Poston Relocation Camp)

The Arizona State Library is honored and very excited to be able to continue the Arizona Digital Newspaper Project. The historical and cultural identity of Arizona can appear quite different depending on the lens through which it is viewed. The addition of these papers to the online collections will nurture a fuller appreciation for and understanding of the disparate forces which have combined to create our Arizona identity.