Hard Copy to Hard Drive
October 25th, 2016 by Dianna Troyer
Old newspapers can be difficult to sort through because of how fragile the paper becomes with age. Gary hopes digitizing the papers makes searching easier and preserves the documents.

Old newspapers can be difficult to sort through because of how fragile the paper becomes with age. Gary hopes digitizing the papers makes searching easier and preserves the documents.

Gary Schorzman looks to digitize local newspapers

Wearing white cotton gloves, Rupert historian Gary Schorzman painstakingly thumbs through fragile, yellowed news-paper pages to uncover stories for his latest book, “Rupert’s Fourth of July, 111 Years.”

He hopes that soon will change. Instead of turning delicate pages of the Rupert Pioneer-Record and the Minidoka County News bound in large books, Gary envisions searching through more than a century of newspapers with a few taps on a computer keyboard.

“It will be exciting for everybody to have that information available in a digitized format,” says Gary of the newspapers printed from 1905 to 2008.

He is spearheading a project “to bring back the news to our fingertips,” he says, and is working in partnership with the Minidoka County Historical Society Museum and the DeMary Memorial Library in Rupert.

Gary launched a $70,000 fundraising campaign so the museum’s 118 volumes of newspapers can be scanned and trans-formed into a digitized JPEG format. CDs will be available at the museum and library.

“It will be a literary and educational benefit to our entire community,” Gary says.

Gary first thought of the idea three years ago while spending years at the museum doing research for his books and the local newspaper about local towns in celebration of the county’s centennial.

“I had to write the information out by hand at the museum, then come home and write on my computer,” Gary says. “It was very labor intensive, but definitely a labor of love.”

Response to the 17 local historical books he has written in the past 16 years encouraged him.

“People love reading about our history and seeing old photos published,” says Gary, who lives on the family farm north of Rupert. In 1912, his German grandfather, David Schorzman, moved from South Dakota and homesteaded in Kamima and Adelaide.

“Newcomers have told me they’re eager to learn about our past, too, and have all kinds of questions,” he says, listing a few.

Why did part of Minidoka County eventually become Jerome County?

When did the first car come to town, and what kind was it?

How was the desert near Rupert first homesteaded and later irrigated?

While doing research at the museum, Gary realized how priceless the disintegrating newspapers were to others who were delving into the past, including genealogists, students and history buffs.

“We had to figure out a way to preserve this information for future generations,” he says.

The historic newspapers are popular among families doing genealogy and searching for obituaries, points out Ginger Cooper, the museum’s secretary-curator.

“Besides wanting to read obituaries, people are interested in learning more about the German prisoner of war camp that was near here during World War II,” she says.

The camp was open from 1943 to 1946, so prisoners could help harvest crops. One POW, Klaus Langlotz, returned to the area as a senior citizen and recalled in a newspaper article that he was treated well at the camp and had fond memories of Idaho.

Ginger also helps patrons research other popular topics, including the Minidoka Dam construction, arrival of electricity or finding proof that a relative lived in the area.

One project involved helping some-one learn about an accidental family shooting that was never discussed when she was young.

“She was 4 when it happened, and just wanted to know about it to have some closure,” says Ginger. “Her dad accidentally shot her stepbrother while a gun was being cleaned. A few days earlier, another brother had accidentally fatally run over someone while driving farm equipment. Those events were so traumatic that her family never discussed them, so she was glad to read the articles to know what had happened.”

To digitize the newspapers, state and federal grants, along with private dona-tions, are being sought.

Once money is raised, the newspaper volumes will be disassembled and placed in archival safe boxes. With that complete, the pages will be scanned and indexed in 25-year increments.

“It will be searchable by name recognition,” says Gary. “Another nice fea-ture with this format is that there won’t be a crevice down the center of a page, which is found in microfilmed docu-ments. You’ll easily be able to read an entire column. Copies of a page can be printed with clear headlines, newsprint and photos.”

Contributions to the project are tax deductible because the Minidoka County Historical Society is a non-profit organization with a 501(c)(3) tax designation.

“We appreciate all size donations from $5 and up,” says Gary, who has collected $15,000 for the project, including a donation from United Electric Co-op that he is grateful for.
Gary says he looks forward to the day when he and others can do historical research with a computer.

“This project will be a technological leap forward for our community and will be a legacy for future generations,” he says.

To donate, send a check made out to Minidoka County Historical Society to Gary Schorzman, 148 W. 300 N., Rupert, ID 83350. For more information, contact Gary at 436-3982, 312-1556 or email gro.tmpnull@namzrohcsgw.