Courier archives preserved Federal grant helps save photos

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After funds from a federal grant it received more than three years ago have nearly been exhausted, the New Pittsburgh Courier has made tremendous progress in its project to protect, preserve and digitize its historical archives, containing approximately 750,000 photos from the Pittsburgh Courier newspaper, at one time the most circulated Black newspaper in the country.

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IT’S A PROCESS—An experienced archivist uses equipment secured through a federal grant to scan and preserve one of the images from the Pittsburgh Courier Newspaper’s historical archives. (Photo by John Brewer)

“We are thanking this national fund for getting us this far and this big process was launched because of it,” said John Brewer, Courier historian and curator. “This is a long term project. The money has just about been exhausted, but we will continue working on this project with the help of volunteers.”

In February 2008, the Courier, through the help of U.S. Rep. Mike Doyle, D-Pa, was able to secure a $150,000 grant from the U.S. Department of the Interior’s “Save America’s Treasures” program for its preservation process.

“We owe a huge debt of gratitude to Congressman Mike Doyle who was instrumental in helping secure the $150,000 grant to preserve our archives,” said New Pittsburgh Courier Editor and Publisher Rod Doss. “With his help we were able to meet with Congressman John Lewis in Washington, D.C., who approved funding for the archive project. Both saw the need to preserve the Courier’s historical photo archives for others to enjoy and see history in the making.”

The preservation project consists of the collecting of photos from various locations; the removal of harmful physical material or items attached to the photos, which can cause the photos to fade or deteriorate; and the sample testing and scanning of photos to make the archives digital and retrievable. Along with the photos, Brewer said other documents and even new archives have also been collected to be preserved.

As of November, approximately 30,000 of the 750,000 original photos have been sample tested; scanned; placed in protective acid free sleeves and boxes; and then organized into one of 23 categories for future retrieval.

Brewer said that while most of the preservation has been completed, it is making the images retrievable, which is time consuming.

The funding for the Courier’s preservation project, which is being overseen by Brewer and the Trolley Station Oral History Center, has been used to purchase and install equipment specifically used for the preservation, such as computers with the program Aperture, commercial scanners, a microfilm system, printers and hours of training for laborers.

Brewer said that although the funding is just about used up, the project will continue and that it’s expected to take at least two years to complete with the securing of additional funding and at least seven more years without it.

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