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Project underway to digitize 130 years of OVN

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Ojai Valley News photo by Brady Ward 

A selection of shelves featuring Ojai Valley News archives located at the Ventura library that need scanning and uploading. 

 

Grant Phillips, Ojai Valley News reporter 

Curious about what was happening in the Ojai Valley 10 years, 50, or even 100 years ago? The Ojai Valley News is on a mission to help you find out.

In a collaborative effort, the Ojai Valley News has teamed up with the Ventura County Library and Ojai Valley Museum to create a digital archive of the Ojai Valley News dating back to 1891.

The current searchable archive dates back to 2012, but this latest project would cover all 130 years of history. There have already been more than 1,000 PDFs digitized, including several newspapers from 1921 in honor of Ojai’s upcoming centennial celebration.

The project was initiated through calls from local author and historian Craig Walker who viewed the project as an integral tool for historians, residents, real-estate agents, the city, business owners and those interested in genealogy, who want a glimpse into Ojai’s past.

“It was very hard to actually research different topics,” said Walker.

When previously going through the archives, the only search option available was to go by date. It was a trying process that included going to the Ventura library and loading up the microfi che fi lm, then scrolling through countless images.

“It was very cumbersome and very hit or miss; you almost had to know the date of something to be able to look it up,” said Walker. “It was going through volume by volume of the paper.”

Through the new process, the archives will be searchable, all stored on a database that will be accessible through the Ojai Valley News website, from the convenience of home.

“Anybody who wants to go back and learn about some part of the past is really going to benefit from this,” said Walker.

The Ojai Valley News currently uploads a PDF version of the newspaper to its website each Thursday night before the print edition is released on Friday morning. Ojai Valley News Publisher Laura Rearwin Ward took note of Walker’s suggestion and decided to pursue the endeavor, utilizing its same software to create PDFs from decades-old — even century-old — newspapers.

“So many people in our community have such a strong affection for this valley, they are naturally curious about our past,” said Rearwin Ward. “This project will open a huge window to our story. I'm looking forward to a "This day in History" column and so many more stories that we might uncover …. It's exciting to have a chance to know more about the last 100 years.”

Traditional bound and paper copies of the newspaper are found in the Ojai Valley Museum and the Ojai Library. But due to their age, many are in tattered or poor condition. Hoping to avoid any additional damage from sending the old microfilm to secondhand operators for scanning, the library purchased its own Optical Character Recognition software, or OCR machine, which scans the rolls of newspaper and microfiche and turns them into searchable documents.

This digitization process takes place in the library under the supervision of Collection and Tech Services Manager Derek Stalcup and Librarian Dolly Knight. So far, the technical work is then performed by Brady Ward, who is responsible for scanning and uploading the nearly 130 rolls of film. It is a time-consuming process that includes scanning, adjusting the colors and contrast, and then exporting the pages as searchable PDFs.

“It takes about five hours to get through one of the archives, which covers about a year of newspaper issues,” said Brady Ward.

So far, he has digitized issues from 1939 to 1945 of the Ojai Valley News.

After the digitization takes place, the archives will be uploaded onto the Ojai Valley News website in a separate, searchable tab. This process is being headed by IT Engineer Bob Ward from the Ojai Valley News.

“Search functionality is certainly a large aspect of the requirement,” said Bob Ward. “We need to provide the most accurate and intuitive search interface so that users can query in a simple design, but also have some advanced features. The results should allow the user to find topics of interest in the entire trove of issues without a lot of digging.”

The online process and archives will also be part of the new website the Ojai Valley News is developing through a grant awarded from the Knight Foundation.

The project is a time-extensive, costly endeavor that, so far, has been supported entirely by the OVN.

Over the course of the labor-intensive scanning process along with implementing the archive section of the website with searchable features, the project is straining its current financial support.

The OVN is now recruiting curious residents, scholarly reporters, local historians, and anyone else with an interest in preserving the city’s history who can help contribute to the project. For a glimpse at the archives, turn to page A7 to see a preview of the Ojai Valley News from 1921. Through a new “Contribute” tab located atop the OVN website, the public can explore some of the already-archived news stories as well as make a donation to help keep the project moving.

“No matter what form it’s in, the newspaper is such an important historical record of the community and the people,” said Walker. “So it’s very important in this day and age to keep the local newspapers going. Because it’s not just for the people today, but for the future.”

For additional information on the project and ways to contribute, visit the new “Contribution” tab at: www.ojaivalleynews.com/contribute.

 

Editor's note: This article has been corrected from the print edition to have the correct byline.

 

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