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Library effort captures Colorado Springs history as told in The Gazette

May 9, 2013 Updated: May 9, 2013 at 5:10 pm
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photo - Melba Mayall and the last Gazette Index card she entered into Pikes Peak NewsFinder.
Melba Mayall and the last Gazette Index card she entered into Pikes Peak NewsFinder.  

Want to know what life in Colorado Springs was like when President John Kennedy was assassinated? What was happening here during World War II? Searching for that lost relative's obituary? It's a good bet the Pikes Peak Library District can help you.

One might think that the hometown newspaper, The Gazette, aka The Gazette Telegraph, would be a good source for researching the past. And you would be right. But while the newspaper has been covering the news, the regional history and genealogy department at Pikes Peak Library has also been chronicling Springs' history for decades, carefully cataloging the newspaper's headlines.

Thursday the library staff reached a milestone. In the 1905 Carnegie Reading Room the Special Collections staff and volunteers gathered to celebrate the completion of inputting the entire Gazette card index into the online Pikes Peak NewsFinder database.

Over 60 years ago, librarians began looking through each day's newspaper and recording the major headlines onto cards that were placed in The Gazette index. In the early years only the big news stories were cited. As time passed, more headlines were added and past citations to related articles were included.

Tim Blevins, manager of PPLD's special collections, said the electronic project began around 2001 in a partnership with DSoft Technology Inc. - which developed the database and the search engine. The Gazette also helped, giving the library access to the data that the newspaper had available.

With the help of volunteers from the Pikes Peak Genealogical Society and library staff, 79,181 birth announcements, and other vital statistics are also in the collection.

Long-time volunteer Melba Mayall has worked for decades on The Gazette index. She also entered photo data for former Gazette photographer Stan Payne's photos and the Myron Wood photography collection. Mayall, who has announced her retirement, still beams when she talks about the newspaper project.

Jody Jones enters the current data. The full text of articles is available back to 2009, Jones said. As patrons request an article that isn't already in the database, it is located in the microfilm, scanned and then added to the online data.

The database contains 777,364 citations and has been accessed over 460,000 times. The staff has already fulfilled 19,862 article orders from the public. The service is free of charge.

Other titles in the Pikes Peak NewsFinder include: Colorado City Iris, Colorado Springs Independent, Colorado Springs Sun, Manitou Journal, Out West and the Pikes Peak Journal.

You can find the Gazette index, the vital statistics and other resources at ppld.org.

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