Project aims to digitalize local news from late 19th century

By Tom Vogt, Columbian science, military & history reporter

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On the Web

Newspapers Archive

The family tragedy that killed three Clark County people was summarized in two intriguing sentences:

"A dynamite explosion wrecked the home of W.C. Walker at Manor, killing Mrs. Walker and her daughter, Mrs. Bailey, who were preparing breakfast. Walker had put the explosive in the oven to thaw."

The blast, which also killed another family member, was reported by The Vancouver Independent on Jan. 24, 1901.

The summary was provided by Carl Landerholm's chronology, a compilation of a century of local news stories from several local publications, including The Columbian.

The chronology is part of an exhibit — "Above and Below the Fold: News Fit to Print" — that closes this week at the Clark County Historical Museum. Saturday will be the final day of the exhibit at the museum, 1511 Main St.

Meanwhile, the museum is expanding a program that can provide, digitally speaking, home delivery of 1870s news coverage from the weekly Vancouver Independent.

The museum is collaborating with the Washington State University Vancouver Library on the Newspapers Archive.

"WSU has software and expertise we could never afford," said Susan Tissot, the museum's executive director.

The collection is starting with The Vancouver Independent, one of the first newspapers published in Clark County. It includes a function to search for a word or phrase.

So far, the online archive has about four years of online images of The Vancouver Independent, from 1876 through 1879. That's back when the newspaper's masthead identified the publication's home as "Vancouver WT" — Washington Territory.

"The goal is to get through the current issues of The Columbian," Tissot said.

"Above and Below the Fold" includes interpretive panels that feature major news items from above the fold — the top half of the newspaper section front — as well as quirkier stories from below the fold.

There also are photographs and artifacts from the historical museum's collection.

It is making way for another exhibit, "Tools of the Trade," that will open July 11.

Tom Vogt: 360-735-4558; http://www.twitter.com/col_history; tom.vogt@columbian.com.