Late last week, the Columbia Spectator announced the completion of the first phase of its digitization campaign. The project, a joint effort by the Spectator and Columbia University Libraries, seeks to digitize the entire Spectator, creating a comprehensive Spectator Digital Archive.
Spectator is the second oldest continuously operating daily college newspaper in the US. The head of Columbia libraries’ digital program, Steven Davis, estimates that in its 135 year run (the Spectator was founded in 1877, just a few years after the Harvard Crimson first went to print), the Spectator yielded around 100,000 pages of news. Many of those pages, especially from the paper’s earliest volumes, have fallen into disrepair.
Spectator’s editorial board, who announced the launch of the archive on September 27th, noted the role of the new Spectator archive in increasing access to and usability of Spectator back issues. Those looking to read old issues of the paper no longer depend on “crumbling bound volumes in the Spectator office or fuzzy and incomplete microfilm rolls in the libraries,” but can now scroll through a searchable, clickable digital record.
Spectator, meanwhile, is still looking to complete the second phase of this project. Currently, most issues of the spectator from 1953 – 1985 are digitized. This leaves the oldest, most fragile volumes — which, according to Columbia librarians will likely require significant restorations and care — still to be digitized. The Spectator board is currently raising funds to repair and digitize the remaining pages.
Independent of Columbia University since 1962, the Spectator reports not only on-campus proceedings, but also news from Manhattan’s Upper West Side. Spectator editors see digitization both as a step towards making Spectator resources available to all, and, as board of trustees chair Wendy Brandes puts it, a way to “keep up with the industry,” by facilitating access and preservation through digitization.