I had another thought today about the Nevada Appeal’s website. I know this one is completely pie-in-the-sky, and it’s never going to get done, but it would be so cool if it ever did happen, and it would definitely take advantage of the fact that space on the internet is basically limitless.
I was reading Doc Searls, and he wrote a post a couple of days ago with advice for newspapers. And most of the advice is tips on how they can make it through the transition to online with a minimum amount of fuss. But when I hit #2 on the list, I had a brainstorm. #2 reads “Start featuring archived stuff on the paper’s website.” And this is something the Nevada Appeal already does a tremendous job with. They have an archive section where you can pull up and read just about every article published in the paper over the last few years. It’s a great tool, and I’ve used it many times.
But for some reason, when I was reading through Doc’s thoughts on providing access to archives, most of which has to do with making the newspaper more visible to Google, and therefore increasing readership and advertising revenue, I started to think of a different kind of archive that the Nevada Appeal has, specifically the microfilm archives that stretch back over the last 140+ years of the paper’s history. The paper started printing in May 1865, the year after statehood, as the Carson City Daily Appeal. And I’m pretty sure that archives exist for most of the paper’s history; they have been dipped into constantly for the “Past Pages” column that was produced by Bill Dolan for nearly 60 years, and is still kept going by his son Trent and daughter Sue. But where are those archives kept? I don’t know the answer; they’re probably somewhere in the dusty stacks of the city or state library, available only to the few who have the time and inclination to go fetch them.
But why do they have to be hidden? Why does history always have to be locked away? My thinking is that the whole of the Nevada Appeal’s archives, going all the way back to May 1865, should be available online. The old microfilms could be put up on the web as PDFs for everyone to read, and many of the more noteworthy stories from the past could be added to the paper’s current archive system. This would be a tremendous resource for the community, and would do nothing but drive traffic to the paper’s website. Which they could then use to raise their advertising rates, so everybody wins. And meanwhile the amount of armchair history that could be enabled by this move is immeasurable.
It’s a project that I’d love to be a part of, if my plate wasn’t already full with my job, family, new baby, and remodeling my house. I’m already trying to bootstrap a similar project that would make available online heaps of historic photos of the area, but I’m just stretched too thin to get anything finished anymore.