All historical Hall County newspapers will soon be digitized thanks to a Hall County Historical Society project.
Michelle Setlik, a Hall County Historical Society board member, said the society is looking to raise $150,000 to place the newspapers in a hard drive to be placed online. Once the hard drive is placed online, she said the newspapers will be more accessible to people and will be easier to search through.
The historical newspapers range from 1870 to the early 2000s. The project will also digitize the Cairo Record which was published from 1908 to 2012.
“Right now, if you want to read those old newspapers, you have to go to the libraries or the museums to read the microfilms, which is not very accessible,” Setlik said. “With the digitization project, any student who is doing a history project, or anyone who is interested, is going to be able to go out, type in the keywords, a certain date and see the newspapers from their home, library, school or wherever they are. It will be accessible to everyone.”
Setlik said a company called Advantage Preservation is working with the historical society to digitize the newspapers. She added the company has already digitized newspapers from 22 Nebraska counties.
“Advantage Preservation gets the microfilm from the state historical society, runs that through their machines, cleans it up, OCRs it and builds the website out for us,” Setlik said.
On Friday afternoon, Hall County Supervisor Gary Quandt made the first donation to the newspaper digitization project by presenting Setlik with a check for $150 at Pioneer Park, the site of the first Hall County Courthouse. Setlik said Quandt agreed to donate the funds on the condition that she tell him a story about the first Hall County building.
Setlik said she went to The Independent and found several articles about the first county office building: the Hall County Courthouse. She said in 1872, a $20,000 bond issue was passed to build the first official courthouse.
“All the county buildings were spread all over the place and were in desperate need of repair, including our leaky jail,” Setlik said. “Prisoners were escaping all the time from the jail and it was not very secure. One gentleman escaped twice from the jail. The second time, he imprisoned the jailer in the jail as he made his escape. The county was wanting to build a courthouse to house all the county buildings, including the jail.”
Setlik said once she found the story, she told it to Quandt and informed him he could write his check to the historical society, which he did Friday.
“This is a great cause,” Quandt said. “Before, I was told Michelle knew everything and had to got through her to find out about the courthouse. With this project, anybody will be able to go online and find out information. It is hard to ask people to donate to a good cause if you do not donate yourself.”
The historical society will launch the newspaper digitization project by hosting a “Newsworthy BBQ” from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday at Burlington Depot, 603 N. Plum St, For a $12.50 donation, attendees receive a pulled pork sandwich, au gratin potatoes, baked beans and more. On May 2, people can donate to the project during Go Big Give.
“During Go Big Give, the historical society has designated this as our project we are working on,” Setlik said. “Two-thirds of all of the undesignated funds we get during Go Big Give are going directly to the newspaper preservation project to get it kickstarted. If anyone specifically designated their money to the newspaper project, like Gary has, that will go 100 percent to the project.”
Setlik said every dollar donated to the project helps, but the historical society will recognize donors at different levels.
The publisher is $10,000 or more, editor $5,000 to $9,999 and reporter $2,500 to $4,999. Setlik said those who donate to digitize an entire newspaper — or a single year of The Independent — will be recognized as a subscriber. All donors and their levels will be listed on the digitized newspapers website.
Setlik said the hope is to complete the project within a year. She said Advantage Preservation will complete the project in batches to allow the historical society to have some Hall County newspapers placed online while it seeks more donations.