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Kansas Digital Newspapers - Background

The Kansas Historical Society was formed in 1875 at the annual convention of the Kansas Editors’ and Publishers’ Convention where a committee was charged with organizing a state historical society “for the purpose of saving the present and past records of our twenty-one years of eventful history.”  The collection and preservation of the state’s newspapers became one of the Society’s first goals and remains so today.  Nearly all of the state’s newspaper publishers sent current newspaper issues in return for membership in the Society.  Backfiles and files of ceased newspapers were solicited and received.  Consequently, the Society has one of the largest and most complete statewide newspaper collections in the country, holding the only extant copies of many titles. 

A microfilming unit was established in 1946 for the primary purpose of microfilming newspapers.  By the end of the 1980s, all newspapers published before 1930 had been filmed.  By the end of the century, most of the remaining papers were filmed.  Now newspapers are generally filmed within five years of publication. To search newspapers available on microfilm click here.

The Society currently has nearly 70,000 rolls of newspaper microfilm.  There are approximately 15,500 rolls for newspapers published between 1860 and 1922.  Approximately 15% of the titles do not meet the Library of Congress definition of a newspaper and would not be considered for this project.  The Society owns the master negatives to all but 150 of the 15,500 rolls, or over 99%. 

In 1982, the Society was one of the initial participants in the U. S. Newspaper Program. Project staff identified, inventoried, and cataloged approximately 5,683 newspaper titles published in Kansas between 1860 and 1922. Since the start of the USNP in 1982 over 36,000 rolls of microfilm have been produced in the KSHS Microfilm Lab. Part of our agreement in 1982 with the Library of Congress was to follow USNP standards and practices for newspaper preservation, which included following ISO and ANSI microfilm production standards. These standards have been followed at both off-site and in-house production facilities since the start of the USNP grant.

Other successful digitization projects of materials at the Kansas Historical Society include: Territorial Kansas Online, Kansas Memory, and the Western Trails Project.