Diving into Penn’s history just got a lot easier.
Electronic copies of The Daily Pennsylvanian stretching through its 132-year history are now accessible online at . The digitization effort, spearheaded by Penn Libraries in conjunction with the DP, was meant to preserve records of Penn’s history and make them more easily accessible for the 21st century. So far, over 49,000 pages have been digitized and archived, out of the 158,000 that will eventually make up the collection.
“We get a lot of people who contact the DP every month asking if it’s possible to see an issue from a certain month, and we always have to advise them to — if they’re in the city — visit the school and the library,” DP General Manager and 1980 Engineering graduate Eric Jacobs said. “This wasn’t something that was readily accessible unless you could go to the library and browse through the microfilm and there wasn’t an index or any modern tool for searching the history of the DP.”
While the library is in possession of the vast majority of issues of the DP going back to its founding in 1885, mostly in microfilm, microfiche and bound volumes, there was, until recently, no way to access these issues off of Penn’s campus.
“In late fall of 2008, David Lei, who was then the executive student editor of the Daily [Pennsylvanian] came by my office,” David McKnight, director of the Rare Book and Manuscript Library, said. “He said ‘Look, do you think the library might be interested in getting involved in digitizing the DP?’”
At the time, McKnight was Director of the Schomburg Collection for Electronic Text and Image, or SCETI.
“David’s appeal seemed like a compelling project, and so through 2009 I lobbied for the project,” McKnight said.
The initiative, which started in 2009, was initially projected to take three years and cost $600,000. Penn Libraries has invested over $200,000 in the project, including $120,000 through donations, primarily from alumni. Significant donors include Library Board of Overseers member Edward Mally and his wife Julia, both of whom graduated from the Wharton School in 1983, as well as the Class of 1979.
Digitization Project Coordinator and 2005 College graduate Jessica Dummer has been in charge of the digitization project since shortly after its inception, and coordinated efforts to collect, scan and preserve the Library’s collection of old issues.
The school did not directly manage the optical character recognition or the image-to-text conversion procedure. Penn Libraries worked with software companies Digital Divide and Veridian Software to convert and scan the necessary files, while Creekside Digital managed the scanning of microfilm.
Penn Libraries is hoping to raise $500,000 more for the project, which is expected to last two more years. Archives from 1885 to 1900 and 1965 and 1992 are already online; visitors can search by headline or story, and can sign in to save libraries of clipped articles.
“When David originally contacted me in ’08, he had a big picture vision for the project,” McKnight said. “It was good for the Daily; it was good for the Library because we at the Library were dedicated to creating, storing and providing access to information. It would be great for the alumni office, great for the development office and great for the school as a whole, because the Daily is the institution of record for the school.”
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