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May 26, 2024

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The Daily Courier building in Grants Pass, Oregon.
February 10, 2023

Saved for the People: Southern Oregon’s historic newspapers and the Oregon Digital Newspaper Program

By Maureen Flanagan Battistella

The Daily Courier and other Southern Oregon historic newspapers are now preserved for the future in the Oregon Digital Newspaper Program.

Travis Moore, publisher and owner of The Daily Courier, has agreed to release more than 60 years of the paper for the online Oregon Digital Newspaper Program (ODNP). The Oregon Digital Newspaper Program is a free online repository of Oregon’s newspapers managed by the University of Oregon’s Knight Library. While most newspapers in the ODNP are in the public domain, i.e. published before 1925, Moore has released issues published through 1945 so covering the Great Depression and World War II. The Daily Courier is one of many Southern Oregon newspapers now available online; over the last five years, more than 77,000 pages of Southern Oregon’s newspapers have been digitized for the Oregon Digital Newspaper Program.

Publisher and owner, Dan Mancuso, looks over the first issue of the Illinois Valley News, published in 1937 in Cave Junction, Oregon.

The University of Oregon began preserving Oregon’s history in the 1950s as librarians microfilmed hundreds of newspapers from around the state. With the advent of new technologies and federal funding, in 2009 preservation moved from microfilm to searchable, online platforms focusing on public domain newspapers published from 1860-1922. Today, the Oregon Digital Newspaper Program has more than 2 million newspaper pages online published from 1840-2022, searchable by keyword, newspaper title, location and date range. The Oregon Digital Newspaper Program is free to all with no associated cost or membership required to access the collection.

In 2019, local historians and genealogists formed the Southern Oregon Newspaper Project to work towards increased coverage of Southern Oregon’s newspapers in the Oregon Digital Newspaper Program. Rogue Valley Genealogical Society’s rubric stands above thousands of Southern Oregon newspaper pages in the Oregon Digital Newspaper Program (ODNP). In 2019, knowing the importance of news reports contemporary to genealogical research, the RVGS board and personal advocates agreed to fund work that would digitize historic issues of the Ashland Tidings.

The Jacksonville Booster Club Foundation funded the digitization of early issues of the Jacksonville Times and Jacksonville Sentinel in 2021, work that was completed and extended thanks to funding from the Dirk Siedliecki and the Friends of Jacksonville’s Pioneer Cemetery in 2022. Also in 2022, early issues of the Grants Pass Courier and its predecessor, the Rogue River Courier, were digitized thanks to funding from the Library Services and Technology Act administered through the State Library of Oregon.

This 1910 Cottrell & Sons cylinder press printed Southern Oregon’s early newspapers. It was donated to the Kerbyville Museum by the Illinois Valley News. The museum also has a Merganthaler Linotype press.

The Talent News, published from 1892-1894, was digitized thanks to funding from the Talent Historical Society.

Historian and preservationist George Kramer has also focused on historical newspapers as a way to mitigate changes brought by architectural renovation and excavation under the requirements of the Oregon State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO). Kramer depends on newspapers as a primary source of information in his work to investigate, document and describe historic structures and is keenly aware of the importance and relevance of historical newspapers to today’s work.

Between 2018 and 2019, 2019, the Ashland Family YMCA funded the digitization of several Ashland newspapers, as the YMCA renovated and restored Camp Low Echo as Camp DeBoer, which opened in May 2021. The Lake of the Woods Girl Scout campsite, constructed between 1946 and 1962, has been on the National Register of Historic Places since 2003. Kramer also worked with the Rogue Valley Irrigation District to preserve Central Point newspapers.

A new postcard announces the availability of Southern Oregon’s newspapers in the Oregon Digital Newspaper Program. Ask for a set of three free postcards by emailing battistem@sou.edu.

With publisher permissions, ODNP also has current issues and back files of copyright protected newspapers as they are published or with a short embargo, including the Applegater and the Illinois Valley News. And available over the next several years, thanks to funding from the state Library of Oregon will be all available newspaper runs of Oregon’s tribal nations, including those from the Siletz, Warm Springs and Grand Ronde confederated tribes. Also in planning are 19th and 20th century issues of Chemawa American and Indian Citizen, newspapers published respectively by the Indian Training School in Salem and its earlier boarding school in Forest Grove, Oregon.

Oregon historic newspapers can be searched at OregonNews.UOregon.edu, where the Oregon Digital Newspaper Program is hosted at the University of Oregon. For more information on the Southern Oregon Newspaper Project or to request a set of three free postcards about the project, contact Maureen Flanagan Battistella, Southern Oregon University Sociology/Anthropology, at battistem@sou.edu or 541-552-0743.

Back issues of another prominent Southern Oregon publication, the Mail Tribune in Medford, are available through 1946 through the Oregon Digital Newspaper Program and through 1963 through Newspapers.com, a commercial newspaper database. Requests submitted to Rosebud Media, the Mail Tribune’s owner at the time of its closure on Jan. 13 this year, to add more recent digital content to the ODNP database have not met with success.

Email Maureen Flanagan Battistella at battistem@sou.edu or call her at 541-552-0743.

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