Do you know how many dogs the Washington, D.C., dogcatcher who retired in 1906 claimed to have apprehended in his 23 years on the job? Thanks to the historic record provided by newspapers, we have a much clearer picture of the economic, political and social life of the United States, including whimsical glimpses into everyday life, such as the dogcatcher record. (It's 142, 976, according to the July 14, 1906, issue of the Washington Bee).
However, due to their inherent fragility, historic newspapers have long been subject to deterioration. Efforts to microfilm historic newspapers have helped to ensure their preservation, but microfilm is not as accessible as items digitally distributed over the Internet.
The Library of Congress is working to meet this challenge through its National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP), a partnership with the National Endowment for the Humanities that is working to digitize and provide enhanced access to rare regional public domain newspapers from around the country.
Ultimately, over a period of approximately 20 years, NDNP will create a national, digital resource of historically significant newspapers published between 1836 and 1922 from all the states and U.S. territories. This searchable database will be permanently maintained at the Library and be freely accessible via the Internet.
The public gateway to the project, Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers, made its debut in March 2007. Chronicling America provides access to more than 2.6 million digitized pages of public domain newspapers from 21 states and the District of Columbia published between 1860 and 1922, with tens of millions of pages to eventually be available from the site over the length of the project. Chronicling America also provides bibliographic records through a Newspaper Title Directory for the 140,000 newspapers published in the United States between 1690 and the present.
Each NDNP participant received an award to select and digitize up to 100,000 newspaper pages representing that state's regional history, geographic coverage and events of the period 1836-1922. Participants were expected to digitize primarily from microfilm holdings for reasons of efficiency and cost, encouraging selection of technically suitable film, bibliographic completeness, diversity and "orphaned" newspapers (newspapers that have ceased publication and lack active ownership) in order to decrease the likelihood of duplicative digitization by other organizations.
The Library of Congress has taken the lead in providing technical support for the project, and the newspaper materials were digitized to technical specifications designed by the Library.