The National Digital Newspaper Program (NDNP), over a period of approximately 20 years, will create a national, digital resource of historically significant newspapers from all the states and U.S. territories published between 1836 and 1922. This searchable database will be permanently maintained at the Library of Congress and be freely accessible via the Internet. The first of an estimated 30 million digitized pages will be available in 2006.
“Anyone who’s interested – teachers, students, historians, lawyers, politicians, even newspaper reporters – will be able to go to their computer at home or at work and at a click of a mouse get immediate, unfiltered access to the greatest source of our history,” said Bruce Cole, chairman of the National Endowment for the Humanities, announcing the project in a speech at the National Press Club.
“American amnesia is dangerous,” he said. “Democracy is not self-sustaining; it needs to be learned and passed down from generation to generation. We have to know our great founding principles, how our institutions came into being, how they work, what our rights and responsibilities are.”
The time frame of the project is limited because type faces of printers used before 1836 are too difficult for optical scanners to read, and copyright restrictions are in force on papers published after 1923 – yet another reason why U.S. copyright law is a grotesquely extended abomination.