Assuming that history repeats itself, it stands to reason that yesterday's news matters, and that it may facilitate a far greater understanding of today's society. As the result, both The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal are going digital in order to better manage their long-time assets.
Up until now, if someone wanted to research news from as far back as the 1800s, the process was limited to manual and microfilm sifting, two considerably archaic methods of content retrieval in the age of the World Wide Web. In order to step-up usability, both notable publications have had to make two important considerations: 1.) whether digitizing content would prove profitable and 2.) how to archive the digital files once they're converted.
With formidable trials set to launch in March 2001, the newspapers partnered with Bell & Howell Information and Learning, an information solutions provider that's indexed more than 5.5 billion pages of content for approximately 500 years of scholarship and publishing. The ProQuest Historical Newspapers project will digitize and archive content from more than 100 years ago in searchable databases over a 15-month time span for the newspapers. Once completed by June 2001, the resulting online databases will be sold to schools and libraries for widespread use among professional and scholarly users around the world.
The ProQuest archive will digitally reproduce complete issues, including graphics, advertisements and editorial content. Users will be able to enter keywords (such as "Elvis Presley" or "Black Monday") to search the databases in their entireties. The results, which will supply bibliographic information, will also link users to relevant articles to be displayed in their original formats. The ProQuest online information system features an interface that allows users to pinpoint highly specific information down to individual articles from issues grouped every ten years since the 19th century. Bell & Howell will be solely responsible for building fully functional Web sites, possessing both e-commerce functionality and archival search engines.