In the special collections department of the University of Vermont library, you can find newspapers dating back to the mid 1800s. All those years of handling have left some of the papers damaged. So 10 years ago the library embarked on a project to convert as many newspapers from across the state as it could find into microfilms.
"Because of the quality of the paper, acidic pulp, a lot of the newspapers are in danger of being lost permanently," says Birdie MacLennan of the UVM Libraries.
Nowadays, microfilm-- like newspapers-- is being replaced by online information. So the Library of Congress and National Endowment for the Humanities teamed up to create the Chronicling America project. It is an online digital database of newspapers from across the country.
"It's going to eliminate a lot of barriers really for historians, genealogists, archivists," says MacLennan.
UVM is contributing Vermont papers to the database. The school's library just received nearly $400,000 of grant money to digitize 100,000 pages of microfilm from newspapers between 1836 and 1922. Choosing which pages make the cut will be up to a statewide selection committee.
"Part of the process too is going to be looking into our microfilm archives, what we have, the quality of the microfilm, what kind of shape it's in," says MacLennan.
Digitization will start in early 2011 and should take about 10 months to complete.