Want to know what President William Howard Taft said when he came to Keene during his four-year presidency from 1909 to 1913? But you don’t know when, exactly, he visited?
These documents are now available online after the Historical Society of Cheshire County recently completed a project to digitize all Keene Sentinel editions from the journal’s inception from 1799 to 1945.
Alan Rumrill, executive director of the historical society, said the new archives – which can identify stories with any specific term and are available for free via the organization’s website at www.hsccnh.org – will help support research projects on a wide range of local issues. (A keyword search can identify all articles related to Taft, among other topics.)
Historical society staff have long been interested in digitizing early editions of the journal, which are held on microfilm at the Keene Public Library and NH State Library, according to Rumrill. However, the technology for this task is only recently available, he said on Thursday.
After working with The Sentinel and the two libraries to secure funding for the digitization project, the historical society contracted with Iowa-based Advantage Archives, which began this effort earlier this year, said Rumrill.
For researchers and residents of the region, he said the new archive provides a window into the past. These stories have been largely inaccessible, Rumrill said, with no way to research a specific topic in the microfilm recordings.
“Newspaper reports, on all kinds of local activities, include information that is not available anywhere else,” he said.
Founded by John Prentiss in March 1799 as the weekly New Hampshire Sentinel, the newspaper added a daily publication, The Keene Evening Sentinel, in 1890. It has published continuously since then, maintaining an online version of all stories. written in recent years, according to Editor Tom Ewing.
Noting that it is “cumbersome” to comb through microfilm recordings, Ewing said digital copies would help people learn more about the region’s past.
“It will definitely make it easier for people to look at these old issues,” he said.
Beneficiaries of the digitization project include someone researching the history of the local Jewish community, Rumrill said. Rather than looking at individual editions of the newspaper, he said, a simple “synagogue” search now reveals a wealth of information.
“The longevity of the newspaper itself makes it a rich record for the region,” he said.
In addition to contributions from city and state libraries, the historical society has appealed to private donors to help raise more than $ 25,000 for the digitization project, according to Rumrill. This was sufficient to sustain a digital archive until 1945, although he expressed interest in extending new recordings beyond that date if the organization’s other partners agree and if more funding is available. available.
Rumrill said he had already benefited from the new archives.
Working on his weekly Sentinel column – this one on Keene’s first plane crash in history, in July 1911 – he said Thursday that he encountered conflicting names and dates in the existing record. He solved the problem by going through the Sentinel stories of that time.
“It tells the story of the Monadnock area, Keene in particular, for almost 150 years,” he said of the digital archives.