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Digital Archives

information were limited only by the lack of imagination. Through a combination of initially unrelated technologies developed over two centuries, words and images can be sorted, linked and displayed in seconds. Searches can be made by name and date. Thanks to public and private efforts to digitize documents, recorded history is no longer moldering in cellars and attics. In the early 2000s, my colleague Michael Panzer and I began building a digital archive of the Inquirer’s Civil War coverage. Olive Software, an Israeli firm, converted the microfilm of all of the newspaper’s page s f rom 1860 t h roug h 1865 into a searchable database. Almost daily for the next few years, we experimented with the search engine, fine-tuned the format and talked to historians who were interested in using the new product for their research. One thing we found most useful, and actually quite exciting, was the ability to search across the entire five years of newspapers for one name. During the Civil War, the

pages of digital newspaper archives. Events lost in the cobwebs of history are told in breathless prose. Wellknown events become clearer when told by eyewitnesses or experienced first-hand by reporters. I first got excited about the value of old news late in my career as a newspaperman, but, as it often is with the newly converted, I’ve become a zealot. Few other tools give journalists, researchers and historians a closer vantage of the past. Almost 20 years ago, after spending close to three decades as a traditional reporter and editor immersed in telling readers what happened today, I found myself assigned to manage the News Research Library that served staffs of The Philadelphia Inquirer and the Daily News. Part of my mission was to find ways to make money from the deep and varied work that the papers had stored away for more than 150 years. One of the skilled librarians sat me down and patiently explained what databases were and how to search them. I was a “f lat-text” guy whose job was to put ink on paper. What she unveiled was a threedimensional world where correctly used sy mbols, quote marks and ampersands roamed through the Internet assembling facts and pulling them into useable documents. I realized that the uses of digitized 28

Profile for Tidewater Times

June 2017 ttimes web magazine  

Tidewater Times June 2017

June 2017 ttimes web magazine  

Tidewater Times June 2017