The Montana Historical Society invites participation from libraries and museums around the state. We have developed a turnkey service to manage the digitization process, metadata development, and ingestion into this web site. Below is an overview of the process.

Initial Contact: The first step involves a local institution, usually a library, museum or publisher, contacting the Montana Historical Society, to inquire about digitizing newspapers. The first question is which title(s) and what date range are you interested in digitizing? Next the Digital Projects Librarian at MHS puts together a quote. There are two ways to approach this. Either there will be a date range, and the quote will give an estimate for the cost, or the institution will give the amount to be spent, a title and start date, and the quote will tell how much can be digitized for that amount.

Costs: The quote covers digitization, storage/hosting, and some admin costs. An invoice is sent after all the pages are online. All further costs to keep the pages online are the responsibility of MHS.

  • Digitization - Digitization is done by a vendor that MHS has contracted with. This arrangement has several advantages. The vendor already knows our technical specs and since Montana Newspapers is providing them continuous work the costs are less than if every project was done individually. The costs for digitization are based on the page count and number of reels. Whatever the vendor charges MHS is what gets passed on to the institution.
  • Storage/Hosting - Montana Newspapers is hosted by Amazon Web Services, and there are monthly costs for having the content online and accessible. In order to make Montana Newspapers more financially viable for the Montana Historical Society, it was decided to charge the contributing institution for the first 5 years of hosting/storage. This is strictly by page count and comes out to approximately .40/page (or 8 cents/year).
  • Administration costs - Digitization is the easy part of putting materials online. These costs are based on how long it takes to put the quote together. However, the quote is more than just a page count. This is when MHS staff evaluate the microfilm quality, consider newspaper content and conduct copyright research. All these elements determine whether a title is a good choice for digitization. After the titles are digitized, MHS staff review every digital file for image quality, metadata accuracy and page duplication. Then the pages are processed, uploaded and ingested.
  • Microfilm vs. Print: Newspaper digitization is usually done from microfilm. The process is simpler, faster and cheaper than digitizing from print. The Montana Historical Society has over 16000 reels of newspaper microfilm, so generally, we digitize from our microfilm. Microfilm is also the preferred preservation format. Microfilm has a life span of about 500 years, while it’s unclear how stable digital files are going to be long term. If you have a paper that you want digitized that we don’t have on microfilm, we want to microfilm it and then digitize from the microfilm. Only in cases where we don’t have and don’t want microfilm would we digitize from print. For example, The Hellgate Lance, which is a high school paper from Missoula, was digitized from print because MHS doesn’t collect school newspapers.

    Copyright: More information is available on the Copyright page, but it’s important to note here that gaining copyright permission is the responsibility of the institution and is required for any digitization past 1977.

    Project size: Our vendor does have a project minimum so generally speaking (knowing that all microfilm reels and newspapers are different, but assuming 8 pages/issue) a project should be at least 3 reels of at least one year each. This hypothetical project is quoted at $852.25.

    Finding Funding: Past contributors have obtained funding from a range of sources, including granting agencies, foundations, fundraising, budget, and donors. If you are applying for a grant, let us know as soon as possible. We will get you a quote and a letter of recommendation to include in your applications. Remember that you don’t have to digitize everything at once. You can break it down in to smaller projects and do a little at a time as you find funding. Don’t overlook your local organizations, such as community history groups or Friends boards. Consider community milestones that you might use for fundraising, such as an all school reunion or an anniversary.

    How long does it take: How long a quote takes depends on how much you’re interested in digitizing. Also quotes are done on a first come first serve basis so if you’re thinking of applying for a grant let us know early. For most projects, it’s two-three months from the time you approve a project (and the reels are sent off for digitization) to when it’s available online. Let us know if you want to get papers online by a certain date, and we’ll try to accommodate you.

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