Expanded digitisation for Cambridge newspaper

Cambridge Museum manager Kathryn Parsons (centre) with one of the volunteer indexers working on the Waikato Independent, Gill Milton (seated), and former museum curator, Eris Parker.

Research into the stories of Cambridge has become significantly easier through the inclusion of more Waikato Independent material into the National Library’s collaborative digitisation programme, Papers Past.

The newspaper – familiar to many as simply The Indy – was one of eight newspapers named in May as having additional material added to the Papers Past collection, covering the years from 1921 to 1949.

The year 1943 is noticeably missing, and Cambridge Museum manager Kathryn Parsons is urging anyone with copies of the newspaper covering that period to either donate them or make them available for copying.

The National Library’s Papers Past initiative has seen millions of New Zealand newspaper pages digitised since it was launched in 2001. A later upgrade saw letters and diaries, magazines and parliamentary papers added to the collection, making it an invaluable research resource. Much of its material has been sourced through collaborative projects involving local libraries, historical societies and regional newspapers.

The Waikato Independent’s owner, the Cambridge Historical Society (CHS), applied to have the additional material included in Papers Past in May 2017.

Kathryn said the National Library operated a scheme each year where they fund half the cost of digitising papers for inclusion on Papers Past. “They digitise about 80,000 to 90,000 pages each year and invite expressions of interest from newspaper owners. Applications closed in May last year, and the CHS was successful in their application.”

She said Papers Past was currently limited to newspapers published before 1950. “We had the opportunity to digitise 29 years of newspapers. The Waikato Independent was published three times a week, with eight pages per issue, which equates to 1248 pages a year.

“We were delighted when we were offered the whole 29-year period,” she said. “Most of it was funded by the CHS. The Heritage Fund of the Waipa District Council contributed $5000, and Trust Waikato gave $1000 towards the project.”

The Waikato Independent was published in Cambridge from 1904 to 1995 and had numerous owners.

Kathryn said the museum had only hard copies of the papers. “The years 1904 to 1949 have been microfilmed, and 1904 to 1920 had been digitised and were made available to the public online on the Papers Past website. Now the 1921 to 1949 copies have been digitised and added.”

Making research through the newspaper a great deal easier is the work being done by the museum’s voluntary indexers.

Kathryn said the indexing of the Waikato Independent was started many years ago and has succeeded in providing access to many thousands of Cambridge names, businesses, events and topics.

“The indexing that has been completed so far is from 1904 to 1937 – we’re working on the issues for 1938 at present,” she said. “The indexing work complements the full text availability of the newspaper on Papers Past. It really improves the ‘findability’ of the content.”

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