Nearly 1,700 issues of the Wilson College student newspaper are now online and searchable, thanks to a grant that allowed the college to digitize the papers and make them available to researchers on and off campus.
The print editions of The Billboard, which date to 1921, can be accessed by going online to www.wilson.edu/billboard-archive, where icons representing the newspaper's front pages are displayed. To search them, users should click on "Search within results" next to the search bar, where a topic can be entered. On the left, to search a range of years, users should click on "CE" when entering both the start and end dates.
Digitizing the collection of student newspapers enhances its value as a historical record by making it searchable, which means the information contained within the papers is easier to tap by anyone researching a variety of topics─from gender and social issues to national and world affairs.
Wilson was able to digitize its archived collection of Billboards using a $6,000 grant from the Council of Independent Colleges. The CIC grant was made possible by a contribution from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
The newspapers provide a valuable record of not only student life at Wilson over the years, but also of popular culture and the events of the time in general─all as seen through the lens of the former women's college's students, according to Amy Ensley, director of Wilson’s Hankey Center, which houses and manages the college’s C. Elizabeth Boyd ’33 Archives.
“The public may not think of Wilson as the center of discourse on world affairs, but it was very much at the center of national and political debate on very important women’s issues, including reproductive rights, sex discrimination and the equal rights movement, as well as the role of women in the workforce, the armed services and government,” Ensley said.
The process of scanning and digitizing the Billboards, then making them searchable and publishing them, took months and began in early 2019 when Wilson hired an outside firm to scan the college's collection of printed student newspapers, said Wilson Archivist Kieran McGhee, who oversaw the project. After the newspapers were scanned, they had to be catalogued, which was the most time-consuming part of the project.
Now that the Billboards are online and available for research, Ensley and McGhee expect them to be used by Wilson students for research assignments, alumni who may want to research topics or revisit their time at the college, and others who want to research a wide range of topics, such as local history, women's issues, popular culture and a variety of historical events.
Once published weekly, The Billboard today is published every three weeks.
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