News on the Margins

News on the Margins Outputs to Date:


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 of 2017, the project team launched a nationwide campaign to record this information, archive by archive, library by library, and museum by museum, using crowdsourcing technologies and methodologies.

This initial pilot project, undertaken in partnership with the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) and with funding from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, enabled our project team to create an open data collection framework and methodology for information about newspapers by and for marginalized communities. We also produced and released (openly and freely) two datasets: a digital directory of African American newspapers and a digital directory of LGBT newspapers based on the data gathered in this pilot project. Finally, we produced a white paper synthesizing the project’s findings and recommendations for next steps, including priorities for aggregation and other tasks that memory organizations might collaboratively undertake in the future to increase access to these crucial historical sources.

Future projects will seek to accomplish the following, and we welcome collaborators of all types--please contact us if you'd like to work with us!

  • Digitize and integrate bibliographic information about African American and LGBT titles using such sources as African American Newspapers and Periodicals: A National Bibliography.
  • Publish Web-based Digital Directories, starting with African American and LGBT newspapers and periodicals, that will have a simple webform that enables institutions to contribute information about their holdings and tie that information to deeper bibliographic information about the titles and issues they hold
  • Identify rare and endangered titles, as well as titles known to be in high demand, for digitization and open, free dissemination (using the Directories to aid in selection)
  • Aggregate metadata and build a platform to enable federated searches across the freely available digitized content we identify through this project (thus far, more than 150 titles, with mostly scattered issues)
  • Work with publishers, vendors, and memory organizations to increase the collection and preservation of current newspapers published by and for African American and LGBT communities in digital formats
  • Build a model based on this work and apply that model to additional marginalized communities to ensure the longevity of their news sources.

Working together across the field, we can build a collective understanding of what marginalized community news content exists and where it is. Once we have better documentation of the existing sources in print, microfilm, and digital forms, 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 Advisors:
This project would not be possible without the help of so many of you.

Special thanks go to:

  • Emily Gore and Franky Abbott of the Digital Public Library of America, for their vision and collaborative work with us on this project.
  • Nathan Brown of TrueBearing Consulting, who assembled and cleaned much of the data, and who also produced the visualizations.
  • Rob Tennant and Rachel Frick of OCLC Research, who promoted the project and assembled and cleaned the OCLC WorldCat data for inclusion in the project.
  • James (Jim) Danky of University of Wisconsin, who provided a crucial bibliographic backbone and numerous connection points for the project.
  • The fabulous group of participants in the October "News on the Margins" 2017 meeting at the Internet Archive, who provided essential feedback and input on next steps.

We also thank the project's advisors, including:

  • Cheryl Ball (West Virginia University)
  • Randall Burkett (Emory University)
  • Nick Graham (UNC Chapel Hill)
  • Reinette Jones (UKY)
  • Ana Krahmer (UNT)
  • Sam Meister (Educopia)
  • Jessica Meyerson (Educopia)
  • Nancy McGovern (MIT)
  • Cal Shepard (State Library of North Carolina)
  • Kopana Terry (UKY)
  • Tyler Walters (Virginia Tech)
  • Rochelle Williams (Gather Consulting)