Citizen's historical record nearly complete

The Prince George Citizen is looking to 2016 to make the newspaper's digitization project current, which was started in 2007 by the Prince George Public Library.

Right now the online accessible digital archive on the library's website covers the paper from 1916 to 1991.

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The push is to bring the project up to the most recent editions of The Citizen during the newspaper's centennial year in 2016.

The project is made possible with multiple partners, including the library, the College of New Caledonia, the Geoffrey R. Weller Library and the Northern BC Archives at the University of Northern B.C. and the Friends of the Prince George Public Library, said Janet Marren, chief librarian at the Prince George Public Library and lead of the digitization project.

The online database offers an important and easily accessible link to the city's history. Much of the archival material to do with Prince George was lost in a fire at the local museum in 1975, making the newspaper that much more valuable a resource of local history, said Marren.

The process to get the material to digitization starts with the purchase of the images of the newspaper pages from Commonwealth Imaging. To date about 440,000 images have been digitized.

"Commonwealth has the clean copy of the microfilm in their vaults so we purchase the images from them and we plan to purchase up to the year 2003, from there we have the actual PDFs of the Citizen and we can process them ourselves. We don't have to purchase those images, so that's how the project is trucking along," said Marren.

Not only has the library digitized The Citizen, with clear copyright access, but also other former papers from the area including the Fort George Tribune (1909-1915), the Fort George Herald (1910-1916), Prince George Post (1914-1915), Prince George Star (1916-1917), the Prince George Herald (1915-1916), Prince George Leader (1921-1923), and CNC Student Newspapers (1969-2009).

"What's really exciting about The Citizen is it mirrors the city's history," said Marren. "It's just a gold mine for researchers, for local history enthusiasts, for genealogy research and for historians of any kind. I think the value is in digitization and making it keyword searchable - I don't think the significance and the long-term impact can be over estimated because people are going to be using this for years."

Microfiche still exists but it's just not as easy to use as the digitized version.

The funding for the project came from the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre British Columbia History Digitization Program, which has provided $15,000 each year since 2007. The grant hinges on community partners matching the funds, bringing the total annual budget to $30,000, except for this year where contributors upped the ante for a total of $25,000 to spur the project to be up-to-date in 2016.

Since the database is also available through the West Beyond the West portal, Prince George newspapers have gotten about 2,350 visits a month, up from about 600 to 800 a month in the past.

"So it's noted as a significant resource of northern B.C. history and people all over Canada are clicking on our web site," said Marren. "This is open to the public and anyone who reaches our website has access to it. It's been a fun project to work on. We see it growing and it will be great to see it completed and up-to-date."

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