Portal to Texas History

Cooper, left, a third-year University of North Texas student, demonstrates how microfilm is scanned. Also pictured, from left, are Christian Kellum, Sandra Neeley and James Neely.

Learn how to find information about your mother’s wedding, a photograph of the business your grandfather once owned or explore the pages of newspapers well over 100 years old. 

If that information was once published in a newspaper or dozens of other sources in Texas, then it may be available online at The Portal to Texas History for free.

Jason Mangum with The Portal to Texas History will share his insight into researching the online site at 6:30 p.m. Thursday at First Baptist Church Cleburne, 414 N. Main St., in the Ball Chapel. 

There are 1,386,846 items from 412 partners who have made their items available for The Portal to share.  

Recently, The Portal began cleaning and preparing the over 130,000 pages of Cleburne and other county newspapers.  

Gathering these papers from across the county was a joint project from representatives of the Johnson County Genealogy Society, Johnson County Courthouse Museum, Cleburne Public Library, Layland Museum, Railroad Museum and others who assisted in the collection, dusting and organizing the papers.

The recent Johnson County area newspaper digitizing project produced over 130,000 pages of local papers that are being cleaned and digitized, and will begin to be made available to search on the Portal’s website for free in the spring.

Representatives from historical organizations in Johnson County toured the Portal’s facilities recently to see how the local papers are going through their process. 

When The Portal gets a newspaper project, like the collection of Cleburne and other area newspapers, they take an inventory looking for missing or duplicate issues. 

The next step is for project manager, Courtney Hammer, to label and color code each paper and organize them in boxes.

Some of the papers are extremely fragile and need staff members to carefully put the pieces together like a puzzle.

One of the scanners used is called a planetary scanner.  

It has a moving arm and after the paper is correctly in place the employee just has to push a button and it takes a photograph. That scanner is used for larger sized publications.

“There are only four scanners like it in the United States — Harvard University, University of Chicago, the National Archives and the University of North Texas,” said Ana Krahmer, director of the Digital Newspaper Program. 

Another staff member will work with another scanner, processing one page at the time.  

On that scanner, the employee can scan one box in a 10-hour period and the box can contain up to 800 pages.  

The latest edition to the equipment is a Sony negative camera which is used for quickly scanning slides and film material.

Some of the microfilmed materials they receive are in extremely poor condition.  

“We have received film in boxes that has been scorched by fire and miraculously, the film was able to be preserved,” Krahmer said.

Reservations are not required, but seating is limited for the program hosted by the Johnson County Genealogy Society.

Portal to Texas History

Beginning in the spring, local newspapers will be available for researching on The Portal to Texas History website.




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