Help us create a digital archive of this incredible collection of historic journalism from 1888-1929.
We hold a one-of-a-kind, nearly continuous collection of 42 years of historic Daily Picayune and Times-Picayune newspapers which must be photographed and digitally archived before disaster or decay can claim them. A high-speed scanner for large, delicate documents is being held for us at a bargain price. Help us continue this vital process today and build a system to deliver the news… a second time.
How did 30,000 newspapers fall in Joseph Makkos’s lap?
For years, material culture enthusiast Joseph Makkos salvaged letterpresses and boxes of rare lead type from local print shops. He was trawling through Craigslist one day in 2013 when he came upon an ad for a “historic newspaper collection.” Mere hours later, he had become the proud owner of a Times-Picayune archive from 1888 up to 1929, a collection originally among the newspaper holdings of The British Library, carefully yet mysteriously preserved in some 30,000 airtight tubes.
Inspired by other print conservation efforts, Makkos launched New Orleans DNA, not just to preserve this trove but also to pursue a way to release it to the true owners of this shared history: the public.
Currently, the entire collection is meticulously preserved and housed safely at our New Orleans headquarters where it will stay in the original Mylar sleeves until we have the full capability to process and re-enter it into record with our proposed unprecedented image quality and data utility. The physical original papers will also be preserved for research and exhibition purposes.
Scanning & Digitization
Our next major undertaking is to scan and digitize the entire New Orleans DNA holdings–over 500,000 sides of newsprint & special supplements, mostly from The Daily Picayune and Times-Picayune from 1888-1929, a collection unrivaled in both continuity and condition.
Futureproofing the Past
As the Times-Picayune published its final issue on June 30, 2019, we are reminded that the storied era of paper publishing is drawing to a close. Without proper preservation and digitization, the publications that have been generated over the last 150 years will be, quite literally, left in the dust–rotting in private collections and musty library basements. Let’s not let that happen to this collection!
Our signature scan-to-database process is designed by archivists and data scientists and powered by high-speed scanners intended for these delicate documents. We will extract over forty years of material to produce and publish to the world a massive digital collection of previously unpublished vintage illustrations and typography as usable vector graphics, decades of information as fully searchable data and live text, and even photographs–which machine learning can even enhance, recolor, and geolocate.
These efforts are crucial steps in the creation of an online educational database: providing a new generation of tools for researchers and designers with access to higher quality content at a moment in time when the Public Domain is open again.
Even though a current archive does exist, it is of low-quality: just 72 DPI reverse-engineered microfilm, in black and white only. Our process will be higher quality, which will allow for much more accurate OCR (Optical Character Recognition) as well as preserve important color illustrations, rotogravures, and the details of photography that would otherwise be lost.
Here is an example of a 72 DPI low-resolution scan produced from microfilm:
Here is a what is possible with higher resolution scans using a state-of-the-art scanner:
To equip us for this next stage, we must acquire a scanner with the speed, careful handling, and camera detail to process such an enormous collection in an effective and nondestructive manner. A WideTEK 36DS Wide Format CCD Duplex Scanner, valued at over $25,000, is being held for us by a private seller who will deliver it for an initial deposit of $10,000. We also will need to acquire some hard disc storage to back up the files on our server. When the digitization is complete, these tools will also allow us to continue other preservation projects of historical materials.
That’s where you come in.
Your support will enable us to acquire this scanner and begin the scanning process in earnest, and bring these incredible visual, cultural, and data assets to the public.
In order to appropriately thank our backers for supporting us in this effort, we are making available as Kickstarter rewards a selection of our upcoming line of handmade and custom goods, all derived from our archives… products that are not yet available in stores anywhere.
Please support our project to safeguard our collective history, and take a look at all of our rewards to see if this historic content has a place in your home!