For the first time since the Birds Give Back annual day of giving took flight, Milner Library will be focusing on a project for the annual Day of Giving.

Milner’s Birds Give Back project this year focuses on digitizing The Vidette for alumni, students and community members to access online.

“We are very excited to be focusing on an actual project which is the continued addition to the Digital Archives. We are excited to have two alumni attached to this project,” Milner Director of Communications and Outreach Erin Link said.

Link said the goal is to raise about $29,000.

To help reach that goal Thursday, two alumni challenges have been set. The first challenge will be that once 20 gifts, which are donations, are made to Milner for The Vidette Digitization project, $3,000 will be unlocked from former Vidette Production Manager from 1978 Dave Edyburn. The second challenge will be for every dollar raised, a dollar will be matched up to $3,000.

“We have never had an alumni challenge be a part of our Birds Give Back efforts and we’ve also never specifically had a concrete project like the Vidette Archives digitization,” Link said.

The archives contain 4,622 issues with 47,055 pages ranging from 1888 to 1980. The Vidette archives are used for research, class projects and when alumni want to find classmates or relive memories from time spent on campus.

“Every year, [all of us in the library ask] what are our digitization priorities, and this has always been a priority. Since I’ve started at ISU, getting The Vidette digitized has been a priority. We just weren’t able until the last several years to find a company that we liked that could do the work that could put it up for us in the manner that we wanted,” university archivist April Anderson-Zorn said.

Due to the expense of digitizing, issues since 1980 have yet to be added into the university’s digital archives. The university has physical and microfilm copies of all issues but due to wear and tear, they are not as accessible.

In order to digitize past copies, microfilms — scans of the newspaper — are sent to a vendor where they run them through a special machine that digitizes and grabs the information off them. This allows for people to go into the database and search through the newspaper using key words such as “homecoming parade” or a certain sporting event.

While it is not possible to digitize every little thing, Anderson-Zorn explains that user requests and preservation are two of the biggest factors that decide what gets digitized in the archives along with the deterioration and at how fast of a rate.

“In this case, it’s The Vidette. The Vidette really needs it and [given] the newspaper being the nature of what it is, it’s just not going to go last so we need to get it digitized,” Anderson-Zorn said.

It was announced earlier this year that The Vidette will transition to an online-only format. The last printed issue will be April 27. Anderson-Zorn hopes to have the digitization process in place before the paper switches to an all-online format.

“We want to have it in place before The Vidette goes online completely, then I have some backup methods to capture at least the look of The Vidette when it’s all online,” Anderson-Zorn said. “It’s a fundamental shift in how people gather and digest information going from print to completely online.”

The plan is to archive each newspaper decade by decade. With the money raised during Birds Give Back and the hope of reaching the goal, Anderson-Zorn and Link said it should help cover the cost of digitizing the next decade.

Anderson-Zorn’s aim is to get the funding needed for the next decade and hopefully to exceed their goal.

“I would really love to see us far outpace our funding goal and maybe get a good chunk of money for the next decade. That’s what I’m aiming for and will say I have faith in the Redbird community. I think they are going to do it,” Anderson-Zorn said.

Milner and university archives will be promoting the project across social media by sharing past issues of The Vidette along with promoting the database in classes who are researching certain topics and might need a news story from back in the day.

The Vidette Digital Archives can be found online through Milner’s database. The online database is free to access.

GRACE KINNICUTT is News Editor for The Vidette. She can be contacted at gkinnic@ilstu.edu Follow Kinnicutt on Twitter at @GKinnicutt 


IF YOU SUPPORT THE VIDETTE MISSION of providing a training laboratory for Illinois State University student journalists to learn and sharpen viable, valuable and marketable skills in all phases of print and digital media, please consider contributing to this most important cause. Thank you.

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