Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Article: ProQuest Selected to Digitize Major Historic Newspapers (Revised)

This caught my eye....
The Library of Virginia is partnering with ProQuest Information and Learning on the digitization of historically significant newspapers. The Library is one of six pilot sites to receive funds from the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP -- and ), a long- term effort by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress to develop an internet-based, searchable database of U.S. newspapers. ProQuest is working with the Library of Virginia to digitize key titles covering the time period 1900-1910, including The Richmond Times-Dispatch. In addition, the Library of Congress has chosen ProQuest as a partner to digitally convert 10 years of the New York Tribune to NDNP specifications for inclusion in the NDNP repository.
Notice that the newspapers being digitized are in the public domain. The "ProQuest Historical Newspapers(TM), encompassing the full runs of America's most notable newspapers totaling more than 14 million pages of news, dating back to 1764." K. Matthew Dames, when he talks about materials being digitized, will mention that public domain materials can become the property of someone through digitization. Here we have public domain materials that we will now have to pay to use through ProQuest, since ProQuest will be digitizing them and making them available for a fee. We are reminded that public domain does not equal free or freely accessible. {Added 3:15 p.m.} Let's hope that the proper agreements are in place to ensure that these newspapers are freely available even though ProQuest, a for-profit company, is involved.

Addendum (3:15 p.m.): Richard Hess e-mailed and noted that these newspapers should be available for free, since their conversion is being funded by NEH. In fact, the NEH web site says:
NEH recently solicited proposals from institutions to participate in the development of a test bed for the National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP). Ultimately, over a period of approximately 20 years, NDNP will create a national, digital resource of historically significant newspapers from all the states and U.S. territories published between 1836 and 1922. This searchable database will be permanently maintained at the Library of Congress (LC) and be freely accessible via the Internet.
The press release I read (and have linked to in the title here) was written by ProQuest, so it doesn't highlight fully the efforts of NEH or the Library of Congress. Richard is correct -- these newspapers, digitized by ProQuest for NEH and the Library of Congress -- should be freely available. Let's hope that ProQuest didn't take a page out of the Google play-book.

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1 comment:

Kevin Driedger said...

I think the big difference here is that the NDNP project is initiated by NEH/LC and ProQuest is just a vendor providing a service that must meet NEH's requirements. And everything digitized throught the NDNP will be freely available through an LC controlled site.
As opposed to the Google project, which is initiated and controlled by a corporation, and they decide what is and is not allowed.
As the NDNP expands to all states and territories next year, I'm sure ProQuest will see a lot more business like this.