News on the Margins

Newspapers and periodicals authored by and for marginalized communities arguably number among our most important historical collections in libraries and archives today. Researchers have long relied on news sources by and for marginalized groups—from African American newspapers to labor union publications, from temperance newspapers to refugee periodicals, and from lesbian ‘zines to religious serials—to reveal the density of perspectives and experiences embedded in U.S. local and national cultures.

The voices of marginalized communities, including those defined by such identity markers as skin color, ethnic origin, religious affiliation, sexuality, geography, and social class, are often invisible in mainstream news sources. Understanding the diverse experiences of people in the United States requires us to turn to sources written, produced, and disseminated by the broadest possible constellation of people.

Archives, libraries, and museums have rarely collected these sources at the time that they were published. Instead, community members have typically saved these newspapers in attics, closets, and basements; their value for the historical record is often recognized by archives, libraries, and museums many years after their production. Once these sources are collected, they are often cataloged and provided in individual organizational frameworks, making them very difficult to track across libraries and archives.

This project seeks to activate the power and passion of archivists, librarians, and curators to collaboratively and comprehensively record where these resources are, what condition they are in, what formats they include, and what level of accessibility they have for the public. Beginning in mid-August, the project team will launch a nationwide campaign to record this information, archive by archive, library by library, and museum by museum, using crowdsourcing technologies and methodologies. Working together across the field, we can build a collective understanding of what content exists and where it is. Once this is known, the archives, library, and museum communities will be able to make informed decisions regarding how to ensure the broadest possible access to and use of this content.

Project Deliverables:

  • Data collection framework and methodology for information about newspapers by and for marginalized communities
  • African American Newspaper Directory
  • LGBT Newspaper Directory
  • White paper synthesizing findings and recommendations
  • Planning meeting of stakeholders to discuss next steps (November 2017)

Funding:

Funding for this pilot project and research phase is provided by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

Timeline:

The project closed February 2018 and produced a final report, newspaper directories and related visualizations of data for both African American and LGBT newspapers.