December 6, 2012

Editorial: Strolling through history


---- — We often receive inquiries at the Press-Republican from people wanting to track down articles that were published in the newspaper in years past.

Those can often be found through the article search on our website: pressrepub However, articles from past decades are not accessible there, as our electronic library was not established until the advent of our website.

But another resource is available for people doing genealogy research or just curious about the past: the Northern New York Library Network.

In its 2012 report, the Library Network reported that 5,374,653 searches were made of the historical newspapers accessible in its system. Those can be found at on the Internet.

If you go to that website and click the “Historical Newspapers” box on the upper right, you will have access to more than 2,312,000 pages from 65 newspapers. You will find a map of the seven counties whose newspapers — current and past — have been entered into the search system: Clinton, Essex, Franklin, St. Lawrence, Jefferson, Lewis and Oswego.

Click on your county of choice and a box pops up that lists the available publications. For Clinton County, for example, the list offers the Press-Republican and its two precursors, the Plattsburgh Daily Press and the Plattsburgh Republican, along with the Plattsburgh Sentinel, the North Countryman and Cardinal Points.

Some of the articles in the Clinton County section date all the way back to 1811. Imagine the wealth of information — and entertainment — that can be found on those pages. Newspapers are the keepers of our local history, more than any other source. Area historians and town clerks save articles to help document the happenings in their communities, along with other records.  

It took a great deal of work by the Northern New York Library Network — some of it funded by grant money — to make all that available. Each newspaper page has to be scanned in individually. The 2012 report shows that, this year, the Library Network scanned “an additional 256,371 newspaper pages from around the region and the state and continued to provide full-text online searching by title and by county.” Its website was upgraded in June to add “a more user-friendly interface, better graphics and easy-to-click network products and services.”

The Northern New York Library Network offers many other services, as well. For example, this year, the non-profit agency has held 25 continuing-education classes attended by 619 people, made 329 North Country Medical Circuit Rider Program visits to 12 hospitals and awarded 14 professional-development grants.

The digital era has presented a new way to capture the history that newspapers feature every day on their pages and websites. Thanks to the Northern New York Library Network, your fingertips can transport you back through two centuries of news.