Thousands of historic pages of the Santa Monica College newspaper, the Corsair, crumbling and fading with age, have now been safely preserved and converted into a more research-friendly digital format.

The Corsair digital collection — representing 14,000 pages of Corsair editions from 1929 through 2011 — is now a searchable database hosted by the California Digital Newspaper Collection (CDNC), a virtual newsstand of historic and current California newspapers.

Santa Monica College is the first community college to be included in the CDNC project.

The Corsair digitization project reflects a growing movement worldwide to preserve newspaper archives as valuable historic resources, and to bring these paper collections into the digital age.

The Corsair archives document the college’s transformation from an institution with 153 students in 1929 to its current status as the number one transfer institution in California with more than 30,000 students and 80 fields of study.

Highlights of the Corsair archives include a glaring headline from the Sept. 4, 1930 edition that declares record enrollment at the college-of 300 students. Years later, a Corsair story details how the campus planted victory gardens in 1943 in support of the war effort. Yet another Corsair edition highlights how the college band marched in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in the 1970s.

A Chair of Excellence award from the SMC Foundation to journalism professor Saul Rubin was the catalyst for the preservation effort.

“If anything had happened to the paper archives, all that history would have been lost,” said Rubin, Corsair advisor and head of the college’s journalism program. “This project not only saves the Corsair archives, but it brings them to life as a digital research tool.”

Rubin worked closely with then SMC Dean of Learning Resources Mona Martin and college librarian Steve Hunt during the three-year effort.

The paper archives – 98 bound volumes – were first cataloged by library staff. Then, the archives were shipped to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where Backstage Library Works scanned every page to create archival formats including microfilm and PDFs. Backstage then used the high-quality preservation images to generate searchable digital files that make up the Corsair digital collection.

“This will be a great resource for the Santa Monica College community for years to come,” said Martin.

The entire collection is available to the public at cdnc.ucr.edu, searchable by the title “Corsair.”

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