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By Kristine Musademba
The Columbia Daily Spectator is just $24,000 away from being able to complete the Spectator Digital Archive—an online, searchable database of all of its issues going back to the paper’s founding in 1877.
The total cost of the digitization project—a joint effort between Spectator and the Columbia University Libraries—is expected to be approximately $213,000 to digitize the full run from 1877-2012. Phase I—including some 30,000 pages and covering issues from 1955 to 1985 and 1991-1992—cost a total of $69,000. That phase is complete and the new Spectator Digital Archive web portal will be publicly unveiled in September. Click here to preview a test version of the online Archive.
The Spectator is committed to raising $64,000 for Phase II of this large, complex project. The Libraries will raise or allocate around $80,000 to cover the remaining cost of digitization as well as the cost of stabilizing the material for scanning. Stephen Davis, the director of the Libraries’ Digital Program, notes that the Spectator produced approximately 100,000 pages between 1877 and 2012. Many of the paper volumes are crumbling, and turning the old pages into digital, searchable text can require extensive repair, disbinding, and conservation.
Davis, University Archivist Susan Hamson, and Spectator’s 136th corporate board presented an update on the project to about 50 Spectator alumni and current staff members at a fundraising event in June. That evening, Spectator’s 81st editor in chief, Bernard Nussbaum ’58, continued to demonstrate his extraordinary commitment to Spectator by pledging $30,000 to the digitization initiative contingent upon Spectator raising the final $34,000 needed to complete the project from other supporters. In response to Mr. Nussbaum’s challenge, Ernest Brod ’58, the sports editor from the 81st managing board, pledged $5,000 to the digitization project, and Nils Vigeland and Madeline Burke-Vigeland (parents of current news editor, Finn Vigeland) pledged $1,000, leaving Spec close to closing its digital divide. The digitization project began in 2010 when Ernest Brod ‘58, Bernard Nussbaum ‘58, and friends of the class of 1958 seeded the project with a $25,000 donation.
“It’s crucial that we keep up with the industry,” Spectator board of trustees chair Wendy Brandes said at the fundraiser. “Keeping up means that we need a digital strategy both for today’s news and for more than a century of our irreplaceable archives.”
Hamson spoke about the importance of Spectator not simply as a document of Columbia’s past but of New York City’s history, covering its architectural, educational, and social changes. Click here to watch Hamson’s discussion on the importance of digitization.
Current Spectator editor in chief Sarah Darville, managing editor Maggie Alden, and publisher Alex Smyk followed with a presentation on the paper’s recent successes and their plans for the future of the media organization. They focused especially on advancements in community outreach, video and social media content, real-time news coverage, and graphics capabilities. Smyk focused on Spectator’s efforts to open new revenue streams, including partnerships with start-ups and new opportunities for advertisement, sponsorships, and donations.
“Digitization is a mark of the paper’s transition into becoming even more of a presence as the innovative and leading news and media source that it has the potential to be,” Smyk said.
Want to help us finish the job? Click here to contribute to the digitization initiative by PayPal, credit, or debit card. To contribute by check, send your contribution to “Spectator Publishing Company” at 2875 Broadway, Suite 303, New York, NY 10025. The cost of digitizing one year of Spectator is $800. Consider digitizing your year of Spectator today by making a donation as an individual, group, corporation, or other organization.
Click here to view the Corporate Board’s presentation from the June event and here to view a presentation by Stephen Paul Davis (Director of the Libraries Digital Program) explaining the digitization process in detail.
Ernest and Ruth Brod
Nils Vigeland and Madeline Burke-Vigeland
Howard and Anita Orlin
Arnold and Phyllis Abrams
Barry and Carol Dickman
Ira and Andrea Jolles
Joseph and Eileen Dorinson
Robert and Ruth Waldbaum
Mike and Nancy Berlin
Mark and Joan Weiss
Sheldon and Judith Raab
Pat MullinsAlso, we thank Nekesa Moody for hosting the June digitization event at the headquarters of the Associated Press.