Monday, September 08, 2008

Great News for Researchers and Historians

When I first started working on Towers of Gold, I spent hours in the basement of Doe Library at UC Berkeley, looking through old newspapers. At one point my brother asked me if the Los Angeles Times had been digitized and put on line, and I scoffed. Everyone knew that the only papers that were searchable on the web were the New York Times and The Wall Street Journal.

Well, guess what. A few years into my research the entire run of the LA Times went on line. Now I can look at issues dating back to 1881 from the comfort of my home computer. It's been a remarkable help in finding information.

Google announced on Monday that it is planning a major initiative to digitize hundreds of newspapers from around the country. I have already found Google Books to be extremely helpful. (I found out about a major scandal about my subject, Isaias Hellman, because of a reference made in a 1908 book that had been scanned by Google.)This is a major, wonderful breakthrough.

I hope Google digitizes many of the papers that are no longer around but exist only on microfilm. I would love to see the Los Angeles Star, the San Francisco Call, the San Francisco Bulletin, and others

UPDATE: Scott Martelle, the author of Blood Passion, correctly reminds me that ProQuest already publishes a bunch of historical newspapers on-line,such as the Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune. I didn't mean to imply that some newspaper sources didn't exist; I am just excited that soon it will be easier to access papers from a home computer. It's a lot easier to browse for hours in the comfort of your own home rather than from the hard seat of a library.

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