Columbia University Libraries and the Columbia Spectator announce the public release of the Columbia Spectator Archive website (http://spectatorarchive.library.columbia.edu/). This site represents the first phase of a multiyear project to digitize the full run of the Columbia Spectator, Columbia’s student newspaper and the second-oldest college daily in the United States. In its current phase the Spectator Archive includes issues published from 1955 through 1992, totaling nearly 50,000 pages. When completed, it will include issues from the paper’s beginnings in 1877 through 2012.
The goals of the Archive are to provide a public resource for Columbia University history and to preserve the Spectator’s past work. According to Susan Hamson, the University Archivist, the Spectator is important not simply as a document of Columbia's past but also of New York City’s history, covering its political, educational and social changes.
The new Spectator Archive will for the first time allow current Spectator editors and staff to have direct access to the content of older issues, and it will position the paper to keep up with evolving trends in the news industry. According to Wendy Brandes, chair of the Spectator’s Board of Trustees, “keeping up means that we need a digital strategy both for today’s news and for more than a century of our irreplaceable archives.”
Whenever possible, Spectator issues were scanned from the original paper versions, and high-quality, color digital reproductions were generated. State of the art optical character recognition, automatic text parsing software, and a powerful search and display system, provided by Digital Data Divide and Digital Library Consulting respectively, allow for article-level access as well as full text searching of the entire Archive. The project, which is being jointly funded by the Libraries and the Spectator, has been a challenging one because many of the original volumes required paper repair and conservation as a result of their fragile condition and years of use.
The Archive is the result of a unique partnership between the Columbia Spectator and the University Archives, a unit of Columbia University Libraries. Within the Libraries, the project was carried out by the Preservation and Digital Conversion Division and the Libraries Digital Program Division. The project also benefits from shared technology resources provided by Cornell University Libraries under the auspices of the Columbia/Cornell 2CUL partnership.