McGregor Museum’s North Iowa Times digitization project is complete

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The McGregor Historical Museum’s North Iowa Times digitization project was largely funded by a $7,000 grant from the Upper Mississippi Gaming Corporation (UMGC). Pictured accepting the grant from UMGC President Nancy McClellan (center) are museum board member Jim Klosterboer and director Diane Malcom. (Submitted photo)

By Audrey Posten, North Iowa Times

Researching local history just got a whole lot easier. The McGregor Historical Museum’s North Iowa Times digitization project was recently completed, making archives of the state’s third oldest weekly newspaper available online.

By visiting claytoncounty.advantage-preservation.com, people can find editions of the newspaper dating back to its inception in October 1856—all from their computer, tablet or smartphone. Editions of the McGregor News from 1893 to 1913 have also been digitized. The link will soon be accessible from the McGregor Historical Museum’s updated website, mcgregormuseum.org.

The main goal of the project, said museum director Diane Malcom, was to preserve a digital record of the North Iowa Times for the community, library, museum and all members of the historical society.

She brought the idea to the museum board after learning about its benefits from both the Clayton County Genealogical Society (CCGS) and Jane Thein, with the Garnavillo Historical Society.

The museum currently houses the North Iowa Times archives, and the McGregor Public Library offers most old editions on microfilm, but searching for information can be laborious, Malcom noted.

Now, by going online, “you can search by decade or by year, by title, people, places or events,” she explained. “If it’s been written about, you should be able to find it.”

The resource will be especially helpful for people conducting genealogy research. They’ll be able to trace their ancestors not only in Marquette and McGregor, but as families migrated from town to town in Clayton County. Along with the North Iowa Times and McGregor News, newspapers from Strawberry Point, Edgewood and Volga were recently digitized too, through efforts by the CCGS. Newspaper collections from Elkader, Guttenberg, Garnavillo and Monona were already available online.

“Now, you’ll be able to research all those papers,” Malcom said.

The McGregor Historical Museum’s project was largely funded by a $7,000 grant from the Upper Mississippi Gaming Corporation. Malcom said community members and the Clayton County Genealogical Society have also lent both promotional and monetary support, and the project was pegged as one of the beneficiaries of 2018’s McGregor Festival of Trees.

One contributor, Rita Hill, has already utilized the online archives, with great results.

“On a whim, she searched for her dad, and was pleasantly surprised,” Malcom shared. “She found an article from the early 1930s about his involvement  with contour farming in northeast Iowa. She said, ‘I had no idea he did that.’”

“That’s what makes genealogy so fun,” Malcom added, “the surprises you get.”

Malcom warned the condition of some of the newspapers was fragile when they were digitized. Ink had bled through the paper, making a few pages a bit unclear.

“If you get the date and the volume of publication, we can try to look it up on hard copy,” she shared.

This shows the importance of preserving historical resources, and is one of the reasons the museum will continue digitization efforts now that the newspaper is online. The next project will be the museum’s extensive collection of photographs; Malcom is currently writing for a grant and hopes to start with 1,000 photos.

“We have to catalog them and provide captions. That’s phase two,” she stated. “Those can then be put on our website. It will be nice to have them available to the public.”

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