The Camden Public Library is delighted to announce that its archives of the Camden Herald newspaper are being digitized and posted online. Phase one of the project, or the first 125 years of the newspaper, are already online. Phase two, the balance of the project 1998 to 2020, is in the works. “We are more than delighted, we are overjoyed,” said Ken Gross, director of the Camden Public Library’s Walsh History Center. “This project will be an incredible boon to all researchers, historians, genealogists, students, and community members who can now read and search every issue of the Camden Herald.” The key feature of a digitized archive is that it is “searchable”. With a few keystrokes, the complete archive can be reviewed for a person’s name, an event, or an issue. All of the editions from 1870 through 1997 are available online at the Camden Public Library website, at https://www.librarycamden.org/walsh-history-center/search-camden-herald-archives/.
The project is being accomplished thanks to a foundation grant and private donors. Advantage Preservation is doing the scanning, digitizing, indexing, and posting. “We had been looking for a company with the right capabilities, and seeking the funding, for several years now,” Gross said. “We were finally able to put together the technology, the funding, and the archived film of the Camden Herald. The pieces finally came together.”
The total cost of the project is $23,000, and additional support is still needed. The Library invites those who appreciate the value of this new local history resource to consider donating to help support set-up costs as well as ongoing web hosting. Gifts to the Camden Public Library Fund can be mailed to the Camden Public Library, 55 Main Street, Camden, ME 04843; please include “Walsh History Center” in your enclosure. You may also give online at https://www.librarycamden.org/donate/.
The archives are available to everyone online. The most valuable feature of the project is the search function. It is a simple process to enter a search term, enter the years you would like to search, and then the search returns all the instances that your text has appeared in the Camden Herald, highlighted. There is a “Tips and Tricks” tutorial on the website, but the search function works well and is reasonably intuitive. If a researcher wants to copy any portion of the text, they can download that page as a PDF and then select and copy the paragraphs that interest them.
Reade Brower, owner of the Camden Herald, said, “The news that the Camden Herald history is now in digitized format is wonderful news. Thanks to the Camden Library for spearheading the project and to all who provided funding to this project. A big part of a newspaper’s job is to connect the community and there is no better way to do that than by reporting on the now, with the knowledge it will be preserved as history; history is one of our greatest teachers.”
Alison McKellar, Camden Select Board member and avid researcher, is very enthusiastic about the project and the results. “What an amazing achievement to have overcome the obstacles and gotten this done. This is such a wonderful contribution to the community,” she said. “I cannot stop reading it. Thank you!”
Nikki Maounis, Executive Director of the Library, said, “We have learned through our experiences during the pandemic period of the value our community finds in being able to stay in touch with the world through books, online gatherings, and services such as interlibrary loan. Our digitized archive of the Camden Herald will increase this sense of community and help maintain meaning and connection in challenging times. We are approaching (or so we hope) the end of the pandemic, but it has taught us the value and importance of connection to our past and to our community.”
“The digitized archives will be a boon to any researcher,” said Ken Gross. “We have already used it in our daily research requests. For instance, we were recently able to identify the rare visit of a cargo schooner to Camden Harbor by entering the term ‘three-masted schooner’ and the year, and found the complete story on the front page in January, 1941.
“We look forward to finding many more treasures. A particularly powerful advantage is the capacity to link subjects across time so that we can report on trends, sources, and changes throughout the course of Camden’s history. Advertisements as well as text articles are digitized on every page of the Herald over the decades. We were fortunate to have had the foresight to preserve the newspaper on film, as some of the earlier editions are now so frail that we don’t dare open them for fear they will crumble. The film that we archived is a lasting legacy and historical record of events, vital statistics, social activity, industrial activity, and mercantile activity in town, as Camden has transitioned from its industrial roots, through its heyday of maritime building, shipping, water-powered manufacturing, quarrying, and lime burning, through to the present. The past record has so much to say to us, as we on the coast of Maine have changed with the times, and continue to change. The past proves that we are never in a static period of history!
“To understand where we are today, that is, to comprehend the web of cultural, legal, health, housing, recreational, educational, religious, civic, employment, and infrastructure issues of mid-coast Maine, it is necessary to understand the roots and sources of all these issues. Our goal is to offer the richness of that history through the most immediate media of the day — that is, the Camden Herald. The newspaper offers a rare, intimate glimpse into everyday life decades ago. The impact of making this record available to everyone will be immense. Students and educators, at any grade level or degree level, will benefit, as well as our more senior citizens and inquiring researchers everywhere.”
The Library is still seeking funding to finish the project. Donations can be made on the Camden Public Library website https://www.librarycamden.org/donate/