Roger Williams University digitizes old Bristol Phoenix papers

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Bristol news dating back 176 years is now within reach of everyone’s fingertips. Students, researchers and local residents alike can access early issues of Bristol’s newspaper of record, The Bristol Phoenix, without stepping foot into a library.

Partnering with the Rogers Free Library, the Bristol Historical and Preservation Society (BHPS) and Rhode Island Historical Society (RIHS), the Roger Williams University Library has digitized 16 years of the newspaper’s weekly print editions from Sep. 17, 1837, through Aug. 13, 1853. By converting the issues from microfilm to a digital repository, the newspaper content is now readily available online and searchable by keyword, name or date.

The digital project stems from the steady demand from researchers, genealogists, students and local residents visiting the RWU library, Rogers Free Library or RIHS to access the print or microfilm collection of newspapers. These three locations were the only places individuals could access the archived issues; to search the newspaper content, patrons had to visit the historical society to reference its card index.

“This project will increase access to the newspaper collection not only for local residents, but for others beyond Rhode Island’s borders,” said Heidi Benedict, RWU archivist.

The digitization project was made possible by a $1,535 grant awarded to the RWU Library from the Rhode Island Council for the Humanities. The university library is now applying for additional funding with the goal of expanding upon the initial project and helping to digitize other historic Rhode Island newspapers.

Links to the digital repository will be made available on the RWU Library and Rogers Free Library websites. To access the digital versions of The Bristol Phoenix from 1837 to 1853, visit http://rwunewspaperproject.omeka.net.

Individuals interested in learning more about the digitization project of The Bristol Phoenix are encouraged to attend an information session held at Roger Williams University on the main Bristol campus on Thursday, Sept. 12. The event will be held in the Roger Williams University Library in the Mary Tefft White Cultural Center from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m.

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