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KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Early newspapers, once painstakingly typeset one letter at a time, will move into the electronic age, thanks to a $250,000 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to the University of Tennessee-Knoxville Libraries.

UT is locating, cataloging and preserving on microfilm all newspapers found in Tennessee and dating back to the 18th century, said Dr. James Lloyd, special collections director at UT’s Hoskins Library.

Eventually information about titles and holdings will be entered into the On-line Computer Library Center, an international library network used extensively by libraries and researchers.

“Theoretically you’ll be able to find where the title is and if they have the particular volume and issue that you are interested in,” Lloyd said.

The initial planning of the Tennessee Newspaper Project was carried out in 1994 with a one-year grant from the NEH. Hundreds of possible newspaper repositories across the state were surveyed.

An estimated 6,000 different titles have been located in 200 locations across the state. Half of those were published in Tennessee, he said.

“Newspapers are hard to catalog because they can have genealogies just like people. Twenty-five of them may be related, but each time the title changes, it’s a different record. They all have to be tied back together to a parent (publication),” Lloyd said.

Cataloging of the largest collection in the state — at the Tennessee State Library and Archives — begins this fall. The UTK libraries have the second-largest collection, he said.

Lloyd said the cataloging alone will take seven or eight years to complete, not counting the time needed to preserve the collection on microfilm.

The United States Newspaper Program, of which the program is a part, was created in 1982 as a cooperative national effort to archive and preserve newspapers published in the United States from the 18th century to the present. All 50 states, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands are currently involved in, or have completed, their newspaper projects.

“Historic newspapers are probably the single best source for some kinds of historic information. This is a good idea that is obvious to everybody,” Lloyd said.

The Library of Congress provides technical support to all states for the project.

Contact: Dr. James Lloyd (423-974-4480)

Editors: Photographs of some old newspapers are available from Lloyd.