BOISE -- An effort is underway to give people an easier way to read hundreds of historic Idaho newspapers. The project is funded by a grant from the Library of Congress.

The National Digital Newspaper Project will give researchers the ability to search through old newspapers from across the state of Idaho online.

A committee chose which papers to digitize and they will be all be available online by next year.

It's night and day, said Steve Barrett, a reference archivist who works at the Idaho State Archives. I wish I were 30 years younger and was just getting started.

The project transfer newspapers from microfilm to the internet. Right now, the state's collection of historic newspapers is kept in one reference room and researchers have to physically go there to look anything up.

Barrett said the project is funded by a $277,000 grant. The digitizing process is already underway.

Microfilm of newspapers from across the Gem State has been sent to Montana to be added to the Library of Congress' online archive.

That's the Kendrick Gazette, the Caldwell Tribune... said Barrett. We really wanted to represent rural Idaho.

Idaho's grant means 100,000 pages will be digitized and keyword searchable.

The fact that I can access it at home in my pajamas changes everything, said Barrett.

The online archive, which is free, is a game-changer for researchers around the world.

Technology has changed and everything is online, Barrett said. The microfilm isn't searchable in most cases. There's no indexing to it.

He hopes the project will be a success and Idaho can continue to take part for the next few years. Barrett estimates the state has around one million newspaper pages that need to be digitized.

It's going to revolutionize what gets said about history, said Barrett of the Library of Congress project called Chronicling America.

It aims to preserve US newspapers on the state-level from the years 1836 to 1922.

Steve Barrett says the first 100,000 pages of Idaho newspapers that are digitized will be available to search online by June of next year.

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