33 years of newspaper is now part of the University of North Texas Portal to Texas History


DAVID TAFFET  |  Senior Staff Writer

More than 79,000 pages of Dallas Voice, dating back to the first issue on May 11, 1984, have been digitized by the University of North Texas Library as part of its Portal to Texas History.

The issues are in searchable PDF format — not only the articles, but photo captions and ads as well.

Grants from the Institute of Museum and Library Services and Texas State Library and Archives Commission funded most of the project. The school received some additional funds and is still fundraising to make up the difference.

Dreanna Belden, UNT libraries’ assistant dean for external relations, said they underestimated the number of pages and are still trying raise about $7,000 for the $32,000 project.

Digitizing the newspaper began as an offshoot project of The Dallas Way, the North Texas LGBT history project that is collecting artifacts and written and oral histories of the community. The Dallas Way connected with UNT early on in its efforts.

“UNT already had committed to being the largest LGBT repository in the Southwest,” said Robert Emery, one of The Dallas Way’s founders.

He added that The Dallas Way also contacted SMU about housing materials the organization collected so they’d be closer to home, “but UNT was beyond fantastic.”

Dallas Voice connected with UNT through The Dallas Way. Then-publisher/owner Robert Moore met with Belden and they arranged for copies of Dallas Voice, Q, TXT Newsmagazine and a photo collection that was kept in a storage unit to move to the UNT cold-storage facility.

They also began planning for the digitization of the paper, and Belden began writing grants.

Ana Krahmer, supervisor of the Digital Newspaper Unit at the UNT Library, has been involved in the project from its inception.

She said after copies of all of the newspapers arrived, they were inventoried and pages counted; that took four students and two staff two days to finish. Then they created a plan on how they would scan them.

Some were scanned in house, and others were sent to iArchives, a company based in Utah that specializes in newspaper digitization.

Krahmer said one piece of equipment UNT has that helps convert the pdfs to searchable format is an ABBYY optical character recognition server.

The digitizing was done one 52-week volume at a time. Once a year’s run of the paper was scanned, it was quality-checked and metadata was extracted — that’s the basic information about each issue found on the UNT website.

In the first week online, traffic on UNT’s website soared, with 75,000 hits on Dallas Voice pages.

“That’s almost one hit per page,” she said.

Krahmer said she gave a presentation at a Texas Association of Museums conference and was talking about digitization of the Dallas Museum of Art collection. A man in the audience raised his hand and said, “You also did Dallas Voice. That is such a cool collection.”

UNT will continue adding to the archive. Recent pdfs of Dallas Voice are being scanned so they are made searchable and can be added to the earlier issues online.

UNT would like to be the repository for all LGBT newspapers around the country, Belden said.

Currently, they’re working on copies of The Gayly Oklahoman from its inception in the early 1980s.

“The Oklahoma Historical Society does the scanning,” Krahmer said. “They know how valuable and important it is.”

Once UNT has the scanned version of the Gayly Oklahoman, Krahmer’s team will turn those into searchable documents, extract the metadata and put them online as well.

UNT has been actively preserving a number of small-town newspapers from around Texas but Krahmer said Dallas Voice is the most fun to work on.

“There’s amazing photography and artwork,” she said. “I was so glad we didn’t have to scan from microfilm [which is how many of the small town papers are done] because of the color. We would have lost the richness.”

To access Dallas Voice archives, go to the UNT Portal to Texas History: digital.library.unt.edu/explore/collections/DALVO/

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition July 10, 2015.