Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Historic Anti-Klan Newspaper to be Available in the Ball State University Digital Media Repository, a Project of Ball State University Libraries

The announcement that the Ball State University Libraries have received a Library Services and Technology Act digitization mini-grant for 2007-2008 for $23,041 means that a historically significant newspaper will soon be available globally for research, learning, and teaching. The grant funds will be used to digitize The Muncie Post-Democrat and provide access to it through the Ball State University Digital Media Repository, a project of the University Libraries.

The Muncie Post-Democrat was published by former Muncie mayor George Dale from 1921 through 1936, and continued after his death until 1950. During Dale’s tenure, the newspaper was a strong voice against the Ku Klux Klan in Indiana, especially the Muncie Klan. Dale was nationally prominent for his fight against the Klan. He was beaten, shot, and even spent time in prison because of his strong anti-Klan position.

Dale used the newspaper as a weapon against the Klan and its many prominent local members, including Muncie’s mayor, chief of police, lawyers, judges, and other politicians. The newspaper is a unique historical artifact that is extremely valuable for researchers on the Klan in Indiana during the 1920s and 1930s.

After Dale’s death, the newspaper continued, although the battle with the Klan was basically over. The later issues provide a pro-Democratic Party, pro-labor viewpoint. While the anti-Klan years may be of the greatest historical interest to researchers, the entire run of the newspaper has educational and research value.

The newspaper is used by students, faculty, historians, and the general public. Digitizing this rich resource will make it available 24/7/365 to a vastly increased number of users globally through the Internet.

The digitization of the Muncie Post-Democrat will also serve as a key element in another project. Ball State University’s Center for Middletown Studies, in collaboration with Archives and Special Collections, has begun to work to develop an online teaching archive to explore the impact of the Great Depression on Muncie, the site of the seminal Middletown research.

Writing in support of the grant application, Dr. James J. Connolly, Director of the Center for Middletown Studies, said that the digital archive will permit students, researchers, and the general public to investigate the ways the Great Depression changed (or did not change) the experiences of Middletown residents in the six areas identified by sociologists Robert and Helen Lynd in their original 1920s study.

The original newspapers are quickly deteriorating. A vast majority of them are very fragile, brittle, and virtually falling apart when handled. For the project, the paper copies will be encapsulated so that they can be scanned without harming them. Digitizing them will help preserve the originals as well as make the newspaper more accessible. Optical Character Recognition will be done to make the text of the newspapers searchable.

The grant project begins in July, with 1,198 issues and 4,924 pages to be digitized and made available through the Digital Media Repository by mid-2008.

For more information, contact John B. Straw, Ball State University Libraries’ Director for Archives and Special Collections, JStraw@bsu.edu, (765) 285-5078.

This newsletter article first appeared in The Library Insider 5(5): 5; May 2007.

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