Building the Newspaper Collection
The collection and preservation of Missouri newspapers has been a primary mission of the State Historical Society since its founding by members of the Missouri Press Association who, in 1898, saw a need to establish a repository for Missouri's heritage of newspapers. The Society collection now comprises over forty-one million pages and is the largest collection of state newspapers in the nation. Since the late 1930s, the Society has pursued an active program of preservation microfilming. The Society regularly films all currently received newspapers now totaling nearly 300 titles. In addition to microfilming present-day newspapers, the Society remains active in locating and preserving old newspapers.
The United States Newspaper Program (USNP), a national program funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and administered by the NEH and Library of Congress, was created in 1973. Designed to locate, catalog and preserve the three hundred years of extant newspapers published in the United States, the program is being accomplished on a state-by-state basis. A primary objective of the project is to create a national database in OCLC (Online Computer Library Center) that will enable institutions and researchers to access and maintain accurate, up-to-date information on newspapers.
Because the historical aims of the Society coincided so well with USNP goals, the Society became involved in the Missouri portion of the project. From 1987 to 1994, the Society was a cosponsor of the Missouri Newspaper Project (MNP) in a cooperative effort with the University of Missouri-Kansas City Miller Nichols Library. Over these years the staff of the Newspaper Library and the staff of the MNP located, cataloged, borrowed and microfilmed "lost" newspapers from around the state. As a result of the Society's joint sponsorship of MNP, its collection of Missouri newspapers received a great "boost," allowing the Newspaper Library to preserve 236,000 additional pages of print issues of old Missouri newspapers. These are a veritable "treasure trove" of formerly unavailable resources for local historical research.
Although the Missouri Newspaper Project ended in 1994, the State Historical Society continues to actively search for old Missouri newspapers, borrow them and preserve the contents on microfilm for future researchers. Persons with holdings of old Missouri newspapers who would be willing to lend them for microfilming are encouraged to contact the staff of the Society's Newspaper Library.
The collection will also continue to serve as a depository for publishers and editors of contemporary Missouri newspapers. Nearly 300 different newspapers - at least one from each of the 114 Missouri counties - currently provide complimentary subscriptions to the Society. The Society gratefully salutes the visionary journalists who recognize today's newspapers as a resource for tomorrow's history.