Searching for information about “Old Lehi” and its inhabitants just got a lot easier. Past issues of The Lehi Free Press, dating back to the 1930s, are coming online now.
This means searching for old newspapers articles will be as easy as cozying up to the computer and typing in keywords and names.
“This is huge!” said Lara Bangerter, director of The Lehi Historical Society and Archives. “Now people from anywhere in the world can access what was published in The Lehi Free Press. They will also be able to search by keyword which will make research so much easier.”
A link to the digitized pages of The Lehi Free Press can be found on the historical society’s website at LehiHistory.com or at Utah Digital Newspapers.
The historical society found out in the spring that it had obtained a matching grant from the Utah State Historical Records Advisory Board to digitize the paper. The J. Willard Marriott Library is facilitating the digitization process.
“The University of Utah Marriott Library has been working on the Utah Digital Newspapers (UDN) program since 2001,” said Jeremy Myntti, head of Digital Library Services at the Marriott Library. “The initial goal of the project was to preserve and make accessible historical newspaper content from Utah dating back to 1850. …Once we began expanding the program to include newspapers after 1923, the growth of UDN has been accelerating quickly, hitting the 2-million-page mark in 2017, and we expect to hit 3 million pages in early 2019.”
“We try to diversify the content available in UDN to make sure that all voices and areas of the state are represented,” continued Myntti. “Working with The Lehi Historical Society and Archives on this project has helped us to ensure that the voice of northern Utah County is available in UDN.”
Tina Kirkham, digital projects manager at the Marriott Library, explained the process and outcome when a newspaper is digitized. “Historical newspapers are typically preserved on microfilm,” she said, “however, digitizing them greatly expands their usefulness. The software we use enables the full text of every issue to be keyword-searchable. Now readers don’t have to sit and pore over every printed page or scroll through hundreds of frames on a microfilm reader,” said Kirkham. “They can enter a word or phrase and instantly pull up the results from across the entire digitized time period. This saves weeks, even months, of research time.”
Kirkham continued, “For anyone interested in the history of Lehi, and for anyone searching for old friends or researching family history, this resource is a windfall.”
Some 16,000 pages dating back to 1932 are currently available. Eventually, all editions up to 1989 will go online. “Years ago, The Lehi Free Press was transferred to microfilm up to 1989,” said Bangerter. “Going from microfilm to digitization is much cheaper than starting with the paper copy so for now, we could only afford to digitize what had already been transferred to microfilm.”
The following years will have to be for another grant. Even with this grant, the cost of the project was beyond what the Archives could afford. Thankfully, the city agreed to make up the difference so that this invaluable resource could be made available to all today.
The Lehi Historical Society and Archives houses almost all of the original copies of The Lehi Free Press. This USHRAB grant required and provided funding for further steps in preserving the original newspapers. In the coming weeks, the newspaper copies at the Archives will be placed in archive boxes to protect from dust, sunlight and rodents. The originals will still be available for public viewing.
The University of Utah Marriott Library partners with Ancestry and their Newspapers.com site to complete mass digitization of Utah newspapers, like The Lehi Free Press. The Marriott Library works with libraries, archives, and museums throughout the state who would like to have their local newspapers added to UDN.
If you would like to know more about Lehi or look at original copies of The Lehi Free Press, check out the Lehi Historical Society and Archives at 34 E. 100 North in Lehi, call 801-768-1570 or find us at LehiHistory.com.