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Opening Up the National Digital Newspaper Program

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The following is a guest post by David Brunton, a Supervisory Information Technology Specialist in the Library of Congress Office of Strategic Initiatives.

The National Endowment for the Humanities and the Library of Congress have partnered to enhance access to historic newspapers for many years with the National Digital Newspaper Program.  A centerpiece of this partnership is the Chronicling America website.  At over six million pages from over thirty states, the program meets this commitment by publishing historic newspapers on the web.

The software that runs this centerpiece is developed in the Library of Congress’s Repository Development Center, and it is called chronam.  It is available for anyone to use: From the project README:

“The idea of making chronam available here on Github is to provide a technical option to these awardees, or other interested parties who want to make their own websites of NDNP newspaper content available.”

Around this release, we added a large number of features, and fixed some bugs as well:

  • look and feel can be easily customized
  • database size has been decreased by over 90%
  • search URLs are more cache-friendly
  • word coordinates are saved to the filesystem and delivered compressed
  • much, much more

The customizability is illustrated with the two side-by-side screenshots requiring only a single line change in a configuration file.  On the left is our default for the Library of Congress website, and on the right is a generic view without any Library of Congress branding.

Click to enlarge.
Click to enlarge.










We created a public mailing list, for talking about the software, and we began to publicize our work with the NDNP awardees.  We are now sharing it more widely, in the hopes of furthering the mission to enhance access to historic newspapers.

Comments (4)

  1. Can this be used by other organizations who are not NDNP awardees?

  2. To clarify, it sounds like it’s open to all, but then I’m not sure what you mean by “NDNP newspaper content” in the quote above.

  3. Janell, it is open to all who want to use it. That includes, interestingly enough, not only the software, but also the content!

  4. does not allow for a name search- john smith will present every john and every smith in the paper which is USELESS FOR RESEARCH- Northen NY library had a wonderful site that allowed “john smith” and that is what you got- by using the ” x” you got the first and last name of the person- the northen group joined a group 3Rs and they go thru Library of Congress- and I was told that is unfortunately the way it works-also- the site is very slow to populate as one must bring up the page of the paper and wait to even read the name- this can be fixed if tax dollars fund this site make it usable

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