Johnstown Independent

Babcock library digitizes Independent , dating to 1884

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Years in the making, the Mary E. Babcock Library and the Babcock Foundation worked together to digitize the Johnstown Independent, all the way back to the 1860s.

"It just kind of all fell into place," Babcock library manager Julie McElhaney said.

She said she wanted to digitize the Independents, some of which were stored on microfilm in the Johnstown and Newark libraries and others in bound printed copy, for a long time, but the cost was prohibitive.

McElhaney had her doubts, she said, because the bound editions literally were falling apart and it became difficult to print the microfilm versions.

In the meantime, many people, particularly those interested in genealogy, were requesting access to the old Independent editions.

McElhaney found a company that would digitize both the microfilm and bound copies for roughly $8,000. She said she was able to gather editions dating back to 1884, except for 1899 editions, which, McElhaney said, might no longer exist.

"We were able to fill in the other holes," she said.

McElhaney said the Babcock Foundation agreed to help finance the project.

Babcock Foundation and Johnstown Historical Society member Terry Priest said the foundation was happy to help the effort.

"The Babcock Foundation is a philanthropic group dedicated to the improvements of education, fine arts and culture and beautification in the Johnstown area," he said. "Having the Independents digitized is a great resource for preservation of Johnstown's history and is a means for educating all in the culture of bygone days in hopes of preserving the beauty of aging buildings, historic sites and cemeteries that also tell a story to future generations."

He said the Johnstown library presented a reasonable request for funding that was within the financially responsible realm of donation.

"The foundation heartily approved of the request," Priest said. "It's been an ongoing wish to have all the Johnstown Independents, which are bound to be more accessible."

He said that in preparation for the Johnstown bicentennial this year, he learned that others also wanted to digitize the Independents, but everyone, including Priest, said the process was too cost-prohibitive.

"Then, (McElhaney) found one that was actually in the ballpark for the amount of work they would have to do," he said. "To get these done, we had cooperation from the Newark library in supplying the microfilms that we had missing, and of course, we shipped the bound volumes that had not been on microfilm at all."

The digitized Independents are online at johnstown.advantage-preservation.com and on the Babcock library's website.

"I am so glad," Priest said. "To have a living history of Johnstown, however flawed, is priceless."

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