SALAMANCA — The old microfilm archives of The Salamanca Press have made their way into the 21st century.
Nearly every edition of the Press, established in 1867 as the Cattaraugus Republican, is now digitized and searchable online after the Salamanca Public Library decided to bring the archives to the internet.
“Every single roll of microfilm we have that goes back to the late 1880s with The Salamanca Press were digitized and OCR-ed (optical character recognition), which means it’s searchable,” said Kirsten Woodin, library manager.
This includes editions of the Cattaraugus Republican, which was printed weekly, and what is now The Salamanca Press — which began as The Republican Press — a daily paper from 1904 to 2009 when it returned as a weekly publication.
The project was completed by Fulton History, a historic newspaper website which contains archives of over 1,000 New York state newspapers totaling more than 37 million newspaper pages. The website’s operator, Tom Tryniski, is based in Fulton, about 30 miles northwest of Syracuse.
“On the website, fultonhistory.com, you can type in your search terms, whether it be an obituary or an article about your relative, and it will pop up,” Woodin said. “It’s really convenient.”
The library first began shipping boxes of microfilm to Tryniski in early 2017, she said, with the project taking around seven months to go through every roll, of which there about 300, and scan each page.
According to Woodin, Tryniski takes on these projects as a way to preserve local history from across the region. The process, she said, includes running the scanned images of the microfilm through a computer program that “OCRs” the pages to make them text searchable.
But that convenience is a major benefit of converting the microfilm into digital, searchable files.
“The thing people look for the most is definitely obituaries. If you don’t know the approximate date someone died, then you could be scrolling through two or three years’ worth of microfilm,” Woodin explained. “With this, you just type in that person’s name, it pops up and you can print it right from your computer. It’s a big time saver.”
When searching online, a technique for the best results is bracketing the name with quotation marks, such as “John Doe” instead of John Doe. Including the name of the town or city or newspaper also helps to narrow down results.
“If people who had ancestors in Salamanca and now live in Florida or Texas, when they call us we just tell them to go to this website,” Woodin said. “You no longer have to be in the library to look anything up.”
Although the archives are now searchable online for digital viewing, Woodin said the original microfilm and the machine to view them are still available for public use at the library. The library possesses one of two collections of the microfilm, with the other complete set at the Salamanca Press office on River Street.
“I’m happy with the final product,” she said of the digitized archives. “It’s very useful for it to be searchable.”
For more information, visit fultonhistory.com or call the Salamanca Public Library, 945-1890.
(Contact reporter Kellen Quigley at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @Kellen_Quigley.)