By now, most locals have likely seen the announcement that Bloomington’s hometown newspaper, The Herald-Times, will auction off approximately 1100 bound volumes of past issues. All proceeds will go to an account established by Jill Bond with the Community Foundation of Bloomington/Monroe County to help fund local reporting.
Repository colleagues throughout the county have been contacted by local history lovers, wondering if we had heard about this archive and if there was anything they could do to help us secure it? Such generosity and love of the past thrills us, of course, but the truth is – we all could have had it, for free, and we all passed.
I know. I KNOW! But there’s really some sound reasoning for this, I assure you!
- In this case, the research value is what is of utmost importance for our institutions. We have access to these papers in other formats at the IU Libraries, the Monroe County History Center (MCHC), and the Monroe County Public Library (MCPL), where the latter has it microfilmed and available into 2023. If something happens to any of the reels, the Indiana State Library has the master film and a new copy can be made!
- Typically, newsprint is made up of very low-quality paper that was not meant for longevity; for some papers, it means they fall apart a little bit each time they are used. In a recent opinion piece for the Herald-Times, long-time staffer Lynn Houser recalls of the bound volumes, “You opened them with caution because it didn’t take much to convert a 100-year old page into confetti.” (HT, August 23, 2023) For this reason, the preferred formats for use within repositories are oftentimes microfilm or digital versions.
- Condition is also an issue for some of the volumes, with missing pages and water damage, as evident in some of the auction site’s images.
- “You said digital! Why don’t you at least digitize these?” That would actually be really amazing but it is costly to properly digitize materials for long-term use and preservation. For some perspective, at the IU Archives, I have been working on a project to hopefully digitize back issues of the campus student newspaper and my estimates for the labor and outsourcing the digitization to a vendor come to over $300,000 — that doesn’t even take into account the long-term storage and delivery costs associated with keeping the digitized content available for perpetuity. If there is a decision to move forward on digitization of the H-T at a later date, it is possible to digitize from the microfilm.
- Did I mention this is a sizeable collection of over 1100 LARGE volumes? Proper storage of this many volumes is prohibitive for many institutions. Indiana University Libraries is fortunate to have the Ruth Lilly Auxiliary Library Facility, but space is finite; MCHC worked out that they would need to add an entire floor to its building to house these!
- Transporting and using volumes the size of these is just physically difficult for staff and patrons alike.
We are so thrilled with the solution Bond and others have devised. As history lovers ourselves, we didn’t want to see these end up in the landfill, either, and it’s wonderful that folks will have the opportunity to own a piece of local history. The auction runs through September 13. For more information, visit https://edsindian.hibid.com/auctions
Finally, if you have an interest in local journalism, we highly recommend a visit to the Monroe County History Center to check out their current exhibition, “The Past and Uncertain Future of Local Print Journalism,” open through December 30th!