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State Historical Society Digitizes Archives

A whopping one million pages of Montana’s newspapers, and the stories they carried about lives, deaths and everything in between, are now available with the click of a few computer keys through a Montana Historical Society project.

The Digitized Montana Newspapers project involves two free online resources that allows the public to search newspapers dating back to 1864. These titles come from 76 communities representing 46 of the 56 Montana counties.

Natasha Hollenbach, digital projects librarian, said newspapers are one of the most used collections at the Montana Historical Society, which is why the organization started digitizing them in 2009 through a grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Through that program known as Chronicling America, more than 314,700 pages from at least 92 Montana newspapers from 1864 to 1963 can be found online.

The second resource is Montana Newspapers, which is a searchable database containing more than 685,000 pages from 114 Montana towns, counties, schools and tribal newspapers dated 1873 to 2018. The newspapers on the two sites don’t overlap and Hollenbach noted that the Montana Historical Society continues to add content to both.

“Digitized newspapers have greater value as more titles are included, which is what makes Chronicling America and Montana Newspapers such important resources for a wide range of people,” Hollenbach said. “The MHS newspaper collection is primarily microfilm, which often is challenging to work with. Having material online provides access for people who might not otherwise have been able to access the collection due to travel costs.

“Previously, researchers had to know the date and location of an event to find an article, or they had to spend days looking page by page on microfilm. Now they can search more than one million pages from Montana newspapers and find things they never would have known to look for.”

Molly Kruckenberg, Program Manager of the MHS Research Center, noted that newspapers are an incredible source for researchers, genealogists, students, communities, and anyone else who wants to look at the past. With the 1 million-page milestone, people can easily search to find coverage of events in different newspapers.

“Instead of spending days on microfilm looking at only one paper, people can look at coverage in various newspapers with just a few searches that would have taken months on microfilm, if it could have been done at all,” Kruckenberg said. “Newspapers were the social media of their time.”

Montana Newspapers’ content selection is based on a geographical town or county, while Chronicling America focuses on a theme or topic. For example, content from after 1922 was digitalized on Chronicling America with an eye on the boom and bust cycles in mining, logging, agriculture and the oil industry.

For more information on the project, call Hollenbach at 406/444-7428 or email her at [email protected] The collections can be found at newspapers.

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