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Saved for the People: Southern Oregon’s Historic Newspapers and the Oregon Digital Newspaper Program

Maureen Flanagan Battistella – Southern Oregon University

The Daily Courier and other Southern Oregon historic newspapers are 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 WWII. 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.
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. 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.
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 https://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 and 541-552-0743.