Digging into local news archives soon will be easier thanks to a joint effort by Tarleton State University’s Dick Smith Library and the Stephenville Public Library to digitize the community’s old newspapers.

The Ladd & Katherine Hancher Library Foundation donated a $10,450 grant this month that will help with funding to digitize and archive local newspapers published between 1882 and 1922.

“I’m very excited about partnering with Tarleton’s Dick Smith Library and receiving the Hancher Library Foundation grant,” said Mary Meredith, director of the Stephenville Public Library. “The grant will enable us to have back issues of the local newspapers copied from microfilm and changed to a digital format.”

Historic copies of the former Stephenville Empire and Stephenville Tribune—continuously published today as the Stephenville Empire-Tribune—are available in microfilm at the Dick Smith Library, a difficult medium for researchers to access, says Tarleton’s Amy Castillo, periodicals and electronic resources librarian.

By digitizing the back issues of the local newspapers, researchers, students and everyday citizens will have quick, easy access to a wealth of historical data, including genealogical records such as marriage, birth and death notices, as well as advertisements, property transactions and editorials.

Once digitized, the 1882-1992 newspapers will be housed online in the Portal to Texas History digital library, maintained by the University of North Texas. The database provides an excellent digital home for researchers, historians and citizens of Texas to locate newspapers from various regions and counties across the state. The added Stephenville Empire and Stephenville Tribune papers will provide an additional dimension to events occurring in and around Erath County at the time.

“Digitization of these historic newspapers will greatly enhance access to anyone wishing to know more about our community and its history,” Meredith said. “Anyone with an internet connection or a library card will be able to browse the papers or perform a quick keyword search to look for stories about specific people, places or events from the past.”

Part of the digitization project will enhance the search capability of the newspapers, which will be scanned with optical character recognition (OCR) software to make each page indexed and keyword searchable.

“Both the Stephenville Public Library and Dick Smith Library receive requests to view articles from the newspaper,” Castillo explained. “As the microfilm ages it will become even more fragile and susceptible to the elements. Digitizing the film now will allow them to be preserved for future generations.”

Once completed, the digitized copies of the newspapers will be made available online to the public for free at https://texashistory.unt.edu. During the digitization process, some of the microfilm reels will not be available at the library.