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Microtext Department

Boylston Room, 2nd Floor, McKim Building, Central Library
Contact via 617-536-5400

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Massachusetts Newspaper Program (Background)

Since the project began, in 1986, the goal of the Massachusetts Newspaper Program (MNP), in the Boston Public Library, has been to identify and preserve the state’s rich cultural history and heritage through its newspapers. Indeed, beginning with Publick Occurrences and continuing to the Boston GlobeBoston Globe, Massachusetts newspapers have been a veritable treasure trove of information for genealogists, historians, and students. MNP holdings include such diverse titles as the Universal Yankee Nation (we believe to be the nation's largest newspaper measuring at 54.5"x 35.5"), the Massachusetts Abolitionist, and the eclectic scandal sheet the Mid-Town Journal.

The Massachusetts Newspaper Program began activities with a planning grant in June of 1986. Over 2,000 potential newspaper repositories were surveyed in order to create a statewide newspaper holdings database. Survey information was analyzed in order to plan for the first part of the program, the bibliographic implementation phase. Over 20,000 U.S. newspaper holdings were located across Massachusetts.

Catalogers and support staff at the Boston Public Library cataloged and created local holdings records for well over 10,000 newspaper titles. Beginning with microfilm holdings at the Boston Public Library, cataloging included original copy and microfilm holdings for the following newspaper repositories in the state: the American Jewish Historical Society, the Boston Athenaeum, Harvard University, Historic Deerfield Memorial Libraries, Houghton Library, the Massachusetts Historical Society, Old Sturbridge Village, the Peabody & Essex Museum, and the Worcester Public Library.

The public can find the nearest location of a desired title by searching the bibliographic records. Separate files were pulled together for preservation microfilming purposes, thus insuring that the intellectual value of the newspaper, what one historian termed, "the single most important research tool available," will always be available to the public.

Contacting the Massachusetts Newspaper Program

Please send inquiries to: Massachusetts Newspaper Program, Research Services Department, Boston Public Library, 700 Boylston St., Boston, MA 02116, 617-536-5400, e-mail:

Newspaper Cataloging

Newspaper cataloging consists of creating a machine-readable record of the bibliographic description of a particular newspaper title. Apart from giving accurate title, frequency, city of publication, volume number and dates of publication, the catalog record also includes preceding and succeeding titles, geographic audience, related titles, local holdings information, format and other information. The cataloging process also includes a thorough examination of a given file to note holdings, title changes, condition, completeness and other factors affecting the final record. In addition, the cataloger searches the existing USNP database on OCLC to learn whether a given title has previously been cataloged, edits or changes that record as needed, and adds the local data record. If a title has not been previously cataloged, a new record is created. Unlike previous attempts to create a newspaper union list, USNP cataloging demands that the catalog record contain only information that can be verified in the actual newspaper. For some titles, catalogers even produce a complicated newspaper "genealogy" to chart the evolution of a title.

Newspaper Microfilming

The Boston Public Library began acquiring Boston newspapers on microfilm from commercial sources in the late 1930’s. By the late 1960’s, a program was started to microfilm ethnic newspapers published in Massachusetts. In 1975, the Library received substantial funding through Federal grants to libraries for Bicentennial celebration programs for its Massachusetts Visible Cities Program, which resulted in preserving on microfilm, extant newspaper titles published in Fall River, Lawrence, Lowell, New Bedford, Salem, Springfield and Worcester. Nearly every year after the Visible Cities Program was completed, the Library carried out some microfilming project aimed at preserving additional Massachusetts newspapers on film. From the mid-1970’s, to the early 1990’s, the Library has been the recipient of grants from the U.S. Department of Education and the U.S. Library Services and Construction Act, Title I, to microfilm Massachusetts newspapers. Through these efforts, over 1,000 retrospective Massachusetts titles have been captured on microfilm as well as some newspaper indexes held in local repositories. The survey information gathered by the MNP has enabled it to contact libraries, historical societies, newspaper publishers, and private individuals who hold newspaper files eligible for microfilming. Recent grants have brought together the holdings of multiple repositories so that a more complete run of a single title may be filmed and a positive copy of the film placed in each institution.

The United States Newspaper Program

The United States Newspaper Program, sponsored by the National Endowment for the HumanitiesNational Endowment for the Humanities, was created in response to a call from the nation's academic and research community, asking for a guide to the location of all extant newspapers published in the United States. The goal of the program is precise: to locate, preserve and catalog all newspapers ever published in the United States. Proceeding on a state-by-state basis, the Program began in 1984 with activities at several national newspaper repositories. State projects, usually coordinated by one or more of the state's major newspaper repositories, depend on the cooperation of libraries, historical societies, newspaper publishers, and private citizens. Project staff members go into the field, seeking newspapers in barns and basements, in order to create the most complete records possible detailing the publishing history and availability of all newspapers produced in the state. Bibliographic records are then entered into the OCLC United States Newspaper Program National Union List, a database which makes it possible to access these records on a national basis. The USNP project will likely remain active until projects in all states are completed. The institutions participating in this endeavor will take over the responsibility of updating and adding new title information to the database to insure that the goals of the USNP are maintained for future generations.

Newspaper Repositories Cataloged by the MNP

American Jewish Historical Society
Boston Athenaeum
Boston Public Library
Harvard College Library
Houghton Library (Harvard University)
Massachusetts Historical Society
Memorial Libraries (Deerfield, MA)
Old Sturbridge Village Research Library
Peabody & Essex Museum
Worcester Public Library

Repository/Publisher/Individual Contributors to MNP Microfilming

Agawam Public Library
American Antiquarian Society
Ashfield News
Barnstable Patriot (Hyannis)
Beaman Memorial Library (West Boylston)
Boston Athenaeum
Boston Public Library
Bridgewater Public Library
Cape Ann Historical Association (Gloucester)
Concord Free Public Library
Coulter Press (Clinton)
Densmore, Bill (Williamstown)
Fall River Public Library
Fitchburg State College Library
Framingham Historical and Natural History Society
Grafton Public Library
Harvard College Library
Harvard Historical Society
Harvard Public Library
Haston Free Public Library (North Brookfield)
Hellenic College Library (Brookline)
Hudson Historical Society
Immigrant City Archives (Lawrence)
Ipswich Public Library
Jones Library, Inc. (Amherst)
Kingston Public Library
Lawrence Public Library
Leominster Public Library
Lincoln Public Library
Lynn Public Library
Lynnfield Public Library
McLain, Tom (Cambridge)
Malden Public Library
Mar-Len Publications (Worcester)
Massachusetts Historical Society
Maynard Historical Society
Maynard Public Library
Memorial Libraries (Deerfield)
Moses Greeley Parker Memorial Library (Dracut)
Museum of American Textile History (North Andover)
Nantucket Athenaeum
Nantucket Historical Society
Nikolla, Dhimitri
Old Colony Historical Society (Taunton)
Old Sturbridge Village Research Library
Oxford Free Public Library
Peabody & Essex Museum (Salem)
Peabody Institute Library (Danvers)
Pilgrim Society (Plymouth)
St. Hyacinth College (Granby)
Salem Athenaeum
Somerset Public Library
Somerville Public Library
Swansea Free Public Library
Robbins Library (Arlington)
University of Massachusetts-Amherst
University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth
Uxbridge Free Public Library
Ware River News
Westfield Athenaeum
Westport Free Public Library
Williamstown Public Library
Winchendon Historical Society
Worcester Public Library

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