A collection of microfilm reels featuring more than 6,000 pages of local newspapers from 1862 to 1907 has been digitally scanned.

Picnooga, a local online history organization, plans to make the newspapers available for searching/archival use sometime in 2017. They are currently raising funding to create a digital history museum for the Chattanooga area.

Part of the money raised will support the purchase of a digital collection management system through ContentDM, which offers hosting service and interface tools to upload and manage content.


Click here to donate.

In 2015, Picnooga announced plans to preserve Chattanooga’s historical papers online. A major component of the idea was to make the newspapers available in a searchable database using a technology called optical character recognition, or OCR.

“We’ve already digitized the newspapers,” Picnooga founder David Moon said. “The system we’re trying to obtain will allow us to put the newspapers in a searchable database.”

The relatively small collection was acquired in partnership with the Tennessee State Library and Archives.In 2012, the TSLA began releasing the results of a time-consuming process of scanning reels of aging microfilm into a searchable online database. They worked in tandem with Chronicling America, a digital archiving platform sponsored by the National Endowment for the Arts and the Library of Congress.

Click here to read more about the Picnooga and TSLA relationship.

Many of Picnooga’s posts are limited to a single photo or brief story on Facebook. Moon said the next endeavor would allow for more research and context to be provided, especially with the newspaper archives.

“It’s a priority for us,” he said. “I think it’s important to usher Chattanooga into the digital age as far as newspapers go. We have very little out there. Acquiring the papers is the easy part. The harder part is to give it some reference and to present it in a way that’s a little more detailed than we present it on Facebook.”

Picnooga began working with retired engineer Tom Tryniski in Fulton, New York, last year. His ability to scan and make searchable historical newspapers has caught the attention of many archivists, including Picnooga.

Tryniski worked with 13 microfilm reels for the latest round of scanning, including sections of the Chattanooga Daily Times from 1873 to 1895, Chattanooga Starfrom 1907 and miscellaneous Chattanooga newspapers from 1838 to 1894.

Moon will also work closely with Sam Hall, founder of Deep Zoom Chattanooga, to determine the best way to archive and present the information.

“My first phone call with Sam was three years ago when Picnooga was getting started,” Moon said. “The first time we spoke, the conversation was about digitizing newspapers. That’s always been in the back of our minds.”

The organization is seeking $18,160, which will be used for various aspects of the museum, including photography equipment, scanning equipment and data storage. More information is here.