When it comes to documenting the history of Gulfport, the Gabber newspaper has played an integral role for the past 50 years and now the city’s public library is leading the effort to preserve every word and the physical appearance of the pages in what would be an easy-to-search digital format.
It will literally take a village to achieve this expensive and time-consuming goal.
To this end, the library staff is collaborating with others who have a vested interest in preserving local history such as the people who curate and provide access to the varied physical collections in the Gulfport Historical Museum, said Dave Mather who is both the city’s director of information technology and the library.
The digitizing process “is expensive so, obviously, the city would not bear the burden of the cost,” he said. “However, we’ve done a lot of things through grants and donations in the past and we’re hoping we can do that again particularly if we collaborate with the museum. It would take over $10,000 to do our bound volumes up to the 1990s.”
A national vendor that uses their own proprietary software to digitize the narrative content of newspapers also maintains the visual look of their presentations by scanning the corresponding page layouts, said Mather. In this way, related content such as headline size and style, photographs, captions and information graphics are also digitally archived.
The process “really shines when you use it for old papers or magazines,” he said. The scanning process is done without hurting the original materials.
If funded and completed, 50 years of print editions of the Gabber could be electronically searched easily and quickly word for word.
For instance, the newspaper’s content has proven useful for city departments over the years when creating grant applications, he said. Often, “they look for documentation like photographs relating to hurricanes.”
The library staff also continues to help people from all over the country with research like those seeking genealogical details even when they don’t know the exact date of a person’s death.
“Right now, it’s cumbersome to do any research because there is no index to the print edition bound volumes,” he said. “We literally have to take their word for when they think something would be published in the Gabber. Then, we start looking.”
However, if the collection was digitized, a computer-based search box that functions much like Google does on the web would be used and research questions could be answered in a matter of seconds as opposed to minutes or hours, said Mather.
Olive, the national vendor the library is working with, has volunteered to digitize two bound volumes of the newspaper for free as a working sample of what can be done, he said. For more information about Olive, visit olivesoftware.com.
While the samples of the Gabber are being processed, have a look for yourself at what Olive has done regarding the digitization of the print editions of another Pinellas County hyperlocal newspaper named The Dunedin Times by visiting
digital.olivesoftware.com/Olive/APA/Dunedin/default.aspx#panel=home. Click the “Search” button and, just like the results of a Google search, click on any one of the results to get more detail.
“This is one of those projects that we hope the community will embrace,” said Mather. “We hope to get the funding we need through community involvement.”