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MSU’s student newspaper digitizing 120 years of archives

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By Sepp Jannotta
MSU News Service

BOZEMAN – Montana State University’s student newspaper, the 120-year-old Exponent, will soon have its entire archive available on the Internet.

Exponent Editor Nicole Duggan said the move to a fully digital archiving system is thanks to funding approved in early April by the Associated Students of MSU Senate, and ongoing cooperation from the staff at MSU’s Renne Library, where some 3,200 issues of the paper are housed in microfilm.

The first edition of the Exponent was published on May 30, 1895, and contained a front-page story about James Reid, who would become president of MSU, then known as Montana Agricultural College. A year later, an issue or two of the Exponent were included in a time capsule that officials laid in the cornerstone of Montana Hall, under construction at the time.

“We like to say that the Exponent is literarily the cornerstone of campus at MSU,” Duggan said. “So we’re really excited about this project. It will make the shared history of ASMSU and MSU accessible in a way that it was not previously.”

Duggan said students would begin this summer with the process of digitizing the microfilm archives and moving them onto a webpage that will house the collection.

The best part, Duggan said, is that the new archives will be searchable, something that should be helpful to MSU alumni that are looking for stories about their times on campus. As it is now, anyone looking to delve into old Exponents needs to visit Renne Library and scroll through the microfilm.

“You wouldn’t believe the number of phone calls I get where someone says, ‘I was on the baseball team in 1977. Can you send me every edition of the Exponent with me in it?’” Duggan said. “And I have to tell them that we can’t help them.”

Duggan said she and others on the Exponent team have pursued this project since library officials approached them last fall about building a digital archive of those issues that were already available as searchable PDF files. It seemed to make sense to bring the rest of that history into the digital age, Duggan said.

Cassia Wagner, the incoming Exponent editor, said she hopes the project will be completed by the end of the 2015-2016 academic year.

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