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SCDNP's Craig Keeney rises to the challenge of a 500-word essay

 

Discover how easy it is to access and read historic South Carolina newspapers online, thanks to the Library of Congress' Chronicling America: Historic American Newspapers online project. 

Since they began in 2009, members of the South Carolina Digital Newspaper Program (SCDNP) team at the University Libraries have digitized more than 203,000 pages of historical South Carolina newspapers. This program makes historic South Carolina newspapers fully searchable through a partnership with the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and the Library of Congress. The SCDNP team learned in August 2013 that the NEH has awarded them a third and final round of funding for the National Digital Newspaper grant. This will provide funding for SCDNP to digitize another 100,000 news pages through August 2015. Links to 58 South Carolina newspapers are available online now at http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/newspapers/?state=South+Carolina&ethnicity&language.

As Co-Principal Investigator on the SCDNP project, Craig Keeney, Cataloging Librarian at South Caroliniana Library, writes a short essay about each newspaper title SCDNP adds to the Library of Congress’ Chronicling America site.

“Craig really is learning new things about these newspapers, such as who started them and how,” said Digital Collections Librarian Kate Boyd, pictured at left, who is SCDNP Co-Principal Investigator with Keeney. “I am not sure if anyone at USC is aware of the work he puts into these essays that are then refereed by NEH staff and made available on a national website to an international audience.”

Keeney explains the process:

“We are required to deliver certain ‘goods’ to the Library of Congress as part of our participation in the National Digital Newspaper Program,” said Keeney, pictured below. “The SCDNP's Laura Blair and Virginia Pierce generate metadata, validate digital files, and work with our external vendor to make sure we’re staying on schedule. My job is, in part, to write concise mini-histories (called title scope notes) for each newspaper we’re digitizing. I’m limited to 500 words, but then that’s part of the challenge: how do you write an authoritative essay in less than 500 words?

“So far, I’ve contributed 25 essays,” he said. “The essays for the African American newspapers (Afro-American CitizenCharleston AdvocateFree CitizenFree Press,Georgetown PlanetPeople’s RecorderRock Hill MessengerSouth Carolina Leader, and The Southern Indicator) have been the most challenging to write, for a variety of reasons. Generally speaking, I’ve consulted a dozen or so primary and secondary sources for each essay. Biographical and city directories, Ayer’s and Rowell’s newspaper directories, Ancestry.com, John Hammond Moore’s South Carolina Newspapers, the United States Newspaper Program directory, and the newspapers themselves have all been tremendously useful. This past year, I’ve been able to use the Chronicling America web resource to discover relationships between individuals and newspapers that I couldn’t have two years ago.

“I send each essay to NEH Deputy Director Ralph Canevali for his approval. He makes a few tweaks, and when we’re in agreement that they’re ready for primetime, he sends them to the good folks at the Library of Congress, who in turn make them available in Chronicling America.”

Keeney’s essays are featured on the righthand side of the newspaper pages on the Chronicling America site at http://chroniclingamerica.loc.gov/newspapers/?state=South+Carolina&ethnicity&language.

For more information on the South Carolina Digital Newspaper Program, visit http://library.sc.edu/digital/newspaper/.