NYS Historic Newspaper Updates

Sneak Peek: Browse the Winding Path

Searching is the most obvious way to find those nuggets of information in our vast collection! But another, just as useful, path through the collection is by browsing!

The new site offers some familiar functionality in regards to browsing but adds some cool new tricks that’ll make your explorations deeper! Let’s look at the Titles menu option.

This page is similar to the current site but loads much much faster! Now you can jump to the first letter of your desired title using the alphabetical menu at the top.

Let’s click on the Adirondack Daily Enterprise as an example. This page is similar to the current landing pages titles except rather than getting the nitty gritty librarian-friendly metadata about the title, you get the information we think you’ll need the most about this title.

For example, we’ve included the “Years in Publication” which is the years the paper printed according to the Library of Congress. This is clearly different than “Available Online” which is the dates we have in our collection. This information was available on the current site but visitors often confused these. Hopefully, this is much clearer!

Other fields to note on this page is “Chronicling America Listing” and “Physical Location Listing”. The “Chronicling America Listing” will have a link to the Library of Congress’ information page about this title. This is where you can find all that sweet metadata you might be craving! The “Physical Location Listing” links to the New York State Library’s listing of each title and what organizations in NYS have microfilm or paper copies available. If we don’t have a particular issue of this title, this is where you begin your hunt to find real copies to look at!

From this screen, you can jump to a particular decade and then a specific year and month. You can also search this title specifically from here.

Next let’s look at the Dates menu option. This provides an easy way to jump to a particular decade, then year, then month. You then get a calendar view that’ll show every title that published an issue on that particular day. While we might not have a lot of issues in the 1700’s there’s a lot to look at from 1810 onwards! If you want to see what people were talking about 25 years, 50 years or 100 years ago this week this Dates menu is the place to start!

Lastly, let’s look at the Collections menu option. Unlike Titles and Dates, Collections is a new way to browse our collection we’ve not had before. We’re excited about this and our partners will be too. The NYSHN web site relies heavily on the materials and support of academic libraries, public libraries, public library systems, school library systems, museums, historical societies and individuals across this state. And while we always publicly acknowledged their support whenever we could it was hard to make sure each partner’s contribution was seen by our visitors. Collections gives us a more direct way to show off these contributions. On this screen you’ll find the names of each partner with a link to landing page which contains thumbnails and links to each title they contributed to. You can also visit the partner’s web site or search through their contributions directly.

Now that you’ve seen some familiar paths and a new path through our collection we hope you’ll take the time to see what history has to offer just off your usual search path! Next time we’ll be look at another new feature: user accounts! This brings the ability to view your search history, save results and share them!

Sneak Peek: Searching the Hoard

In the last ‘Sneak Peek’ article we looked the new site’s appearance and responsiveness on lots of different types of screens. And while we’re pleased with the new site’s appearance, we’re even happier with how it works! While the current site has a powerful search capability, the new site will take that capability to the next level!

As always, you can just enter a set of terms into the search box and have results pour out to you. For instance, I searched for erie canal and this is what appeared:

There’s a lot going on this screen! But never fear; it’s all good! Once the site is launched we’ll post videos about this search interface and the cool new features! Please note the grey message box in the center. We’ve got too many results! How can we limit the results?

For now, let’s ignore all the new options and let’s just play in the search box! Let’s try “erie canal” and we’ll click the search icon (magnifying glass) to redo our search. Notice the quotes! This denotes an exact match search. Now we have only 51,451 items to look at instead of 200,000. Much better!

We can, of course, do better than that! And this is the search feature that I know a lot of users will be excited to see: we’ve got Boolean search capability now! For instance, we could search for erie AND canal and the results will only show pages that have both words. Or we could do erie OR canal and the results would be pages that have either word. And lastly, searching for erie NOT canal will show only results where erie is present and hide pages with canal present too. You’ll notice that the boolean operators AND, OR and NOT are capitalized. If you want even more power you can group these together: (erie NOT suez) AND canal.

We’ve got lots more advanced search techniques to share but let’s leave you with one more feature that’s not new to the site but very much improved: multiple county searches. In the current site if you want to search a set of counties you would control-click (or command-click on a Mac) the counties you wanted from the search dialog. While this worked, it was a feature that was easy to overlook. On the new site this feature is much easier to use! To start, click on the first county you want to search in. Then on the next screen, click on the checkmark box in front of each county you want to search. Each county included will turn red on the map. For instance, this is what a search of the northern most counties in NYS would look like:

Now I can enter my terms in the search box and click the search icon and I’m only searching content from those three counties. So far, during our search testing, we’ve been finding new and interesting results that we’ve not seen before. We hope you will too! In our next Sneak Peek we’ll be looking at some of the new ways to browse our collection.

Sneak Peek: A View From Any Window

New York State Historic Newspapers launched in Spring 2014. Barack Obama was a year into his second term as President of the United States. Microsoft Windows 8.1 had just been released and Mac OS X Yosemite would come that Fall. It was estimated that only about half of Americans owned a smartphone

Previously, we had run a regional newspaper website called “Northern New York Historic Newspapers”.  It featured a map of the counties of Northern New York and a search box and not much else. In creating the new statewide website we decided we needed a more attractive display. We hired a designer to create a new logo and then used that logo’s colors to base the display. Since we didn’t yet have papers from every county we started “filling in” counties dark if we had at least one paper and light gray if none were available. Within a couple of years we had titles from the whole state producing the home page we know today.

These days we have titles from every county so color coding the counties is less important than it was. When we started working with Veridian (veridiansoftware.com) we wanted to keep our color palette and logo but we asked for something “modern and responsive”. “Modern” is an easy request! Our current site looks like it came from 2014. Pretty much anything Veridian’s designers could do would be an improvement! The “responsive” part was important and much harder. 

Back in 2014 most visitors were using desktop or laptop computers. The dimensions of the screens, the colors they could display and pixel resolution then were fairly standardized. If it looked good on our screens it’d look good on anybody’s screens. That’s not true anymore! Visitors now view from laptops, desktops, smartphones and tablets in dozens of sizes and shapes. The site needs to look good and be usable no matter what the visitor is using. Veridian’s designers took our directive and provided just what we were looking for.

We’re pleased with this outcome! The site retains our color scheme and the alternating colors make it easy to distinguish the counties from each other. But what we’re really excited about is how it looks on different screens. How about on a tablet?

Or on a smartphone screen? This screenshot shows the main page, a search in progress and viewing the result in a newspaper.

The new site has clean modern design combined with full mobile responsiveness. We can’t wait for you to see and use it!

Sure, it’s pretty. But what you really want to know is: how does it search?  Next time we’ll talk about it’s new searching features!

Improvements Coming to New York State Historic Newspapers!

Since its launch in 2014, New York State Historic Newspapers has provided free access to a wide range of newspapers chosen to reflect New York’s unique history. This now includes 920 titles from all 62 counties comprising over 11.7 million pages of historical content.  In these years, the content has been hosted on servers located in our offices in Potsdam, New York. We weathered ice storms, blizzards, power outages, internet blackouts, hacker attacks and hardware failures to provide access for visitors from across the country and world.

A large part of our success over the years has been you: our visitors. We have close to a million visitors to the site every year with millions of pageviews each month. We get email from visitors every week with suggestions for new titles, site improvements, and stories about the wonderful projects made possible by the web site. Your passion and inspiration continues to drive us as we look to the future of the project.

In support of that future, we have contracted with Veridian (veridiansoftware.com). Veridian provides a robust online interface for searching, viewing and enjoying newspaper content. They will bolster our project by providing hosting and expertise in scaling our online presence so that more visitors will have fast and stable access to our collection. In addition, Veridian has new features to make research easier that we know you will enjoy.

We have a newsletter for NYS Historic Newspapers that will disseminate updates as we go through this process. Sign up by entering your contact info and clicking the box next to NYS Historic Newspaper Newsletter In the coming months, you’ll hear more from us about the estimated timelines, new features, and appealing changes.

We’re excited about this new phase of this project! We believe that Veridian will allow us to focus our energy on finding new content while continuing to provide a great, stable, fast and free search interface. Thanks for your continued passion and inspiration!

If you have questions or concerns please let us know (feedback@nnyln.org)!