Old newspapers becoming useful again

Mike Brubaker, Sherburne County History Center executive director, has some simple advice for people who are using newspapers for genealogy research.
“Try and find a complete run of the newspaper,” Brubaker said. “It’s great history. If it’s microfilmed or digitized, it’s easier to access and eventually search.”
Brubaker will present a monthly family history program next weekend at the Sherburne County History Center, 10775 27th Ave. S.E, in Becker. He’ll explore using newspapers as a unique research tool during a Saturday, March 30 class from 10:30 a.m. to noon. “When I do this program, I always tell people, when they’ve found the date of a newspaper they want to look at, they should try and gain access to a hard copy.” Brubaker said. “If you’ve every seen a newspaper that’s been torn and repaired with rice paper or tape, it can cause problems with microfilm. Digitizing newspapers also labor-intensive,” he said. “First, you have to find the highest-quality copy of each issue of the newspaper, then you have to try and clean it, get the dirt and dust off it, and make it as legible as possible before you start. You then put it on a flatbed scanner and save a copy of it to a server or disk some type of memory. You have to use some sort of optical character reader program so every word can be read. You have to go back and review every word to make sure its legible.”
Next Saturday’s program has another goal, according to Brubaker.
“This is one program where we want people to go beyond reading the obituaries,” he said. “We want them to search news columns to find information about their ancestors. We are looking at different ways to help identify historic newspapers within in our communities and at the same time, simply the search through the newspaper so you don’t have to read every single word going back hundreds of years.”
The Minnesota Historical Society recently awarded the Sherburne County Historical Society a Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grant totaling $11,890.
The grant was approved by the Minnesota Historical Society’s awards committee and will support a new microfilm reader printer acquisition project.
Minnesota Historical and Cultural Heritage Grants are made possible by the Minnesota  Legislature from the Arts and Cultural Heritage Fund created with passage of the Clean Water, Land and Legacy Amendment to the Minnesota Constitution in November 2008.
The grants are awarded to support projects of enduring value for the cause of history and historic preservation across the state. The microfilm reader printer acquisition is a project of enduring value because it will replace an obsolete microfilm reader printer with a new digital microfilm reader printer.
Sherburne County Historical Society (SCHS) staff, volunteers and researchers will use the digital microfilm reader printer in the Sherburne History Center’s (SHC) Eddy Reference Library.
The project includes a microfilm reader, computer, monitor, software package and printer to access microfilm or the center’s microform collection.
“We are very excited to have this new technology,” said Maureen Galvin, curator. “The new reader and printer allow us to view the entire page of a newspaper on microfilm and also save information digitally.”
You do not have to have family from Sherburne County to learn from the March 30 program. Everyone is welcome. For more information, call the Sherburne History Center at 763-261-4433 or 763-262-4433 or visit www.sherburnehistorycenter.org.
The Sherburne County Historical Society collects, preserves and explains history.
Its mission is to foster a sense of community by connecting people with the county’s past and help people understand it so they can make informed choices about the future.

Contact Managing Editor Tim Hennagir at tim.hennagir@ecm-inc.com

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