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New scanner at Moody County Museum

Moody County Newspaper Preservation Project

Submitted by Bruce Ramsdell

Did you know that there were at least 4 active newspapers in Moody County?  Egan Express.  Colman Argus.  Flandreau Herald and the Moody County Enterprise.
Here at the Moody County Museum we have more than 150 rolls of microfilm storing over 30,000 issues of these historic newspapers.  Also on film are census records and local Tribal Archives.  Records begin with 1875 up to 2010.    
Over the past 5 years I have been engaged in genealogical study.  As Marvin White and my sister Nancy Ramsdell Cutshall and I travel around the country researching our ancestors we have frequently made use of microfilm systems in various museums, libraries and courthouses.
Last year we visited the library in Osage, Mitchell County, Iowa. We were looking for records of our great great Grandfather, William Ramsdell, pioneer, land agent and sheriff who later homesteaded to Moody County in 1878.  He served in the last 1888 Dakota Territorial Legislature in Bismarck.
We were so pleased and impressed with the microfilm set up in Osage. All their microfilms have been digitized to their computer as searchable PDF files.  Instead of having to view dozens of rolls of film on the scanner, all we had to do is load a disc into the computer and enter a search word.
For example, we entered “Ramsdell” and all mentions of that name automatically highlighted.  We could then copy and paste the article and print it for our own private use.  We left a donation and paid for our copies and completed the visit in less than an hour. One could spend months doing it the manual way.
Other benefits of converting the microfilm to searchable PDF include: 1) The films can be archived and no longer exposed to daily wear and tear with no possibility of damage by flood, fire, vandalism or theft.  2) The digitized PDF files can be stored in various places.  They can also conceivably be placed on-line for universal access. Some research companies like Newpapers.com will pay for access to old newspapers.
Coincidently last summer when I contacted the museum about digitizing our microfilm the Board and Director had already begun the process. They were faced with the option of purchasing a new microfilm reader which had the capacity to copy and store the films manually, or send our films off to a company to digitize them professionally. The price for the latter was greater than $50,000.  
We have chosen the first option of purchasing the microfilm reader.  The board chose to purchase it before the funds were raised because they would save several thousand dollars by accepting the deal they were offered at that time.
We have two excellent people at the museum to perform the transition.  
This is our team:
Bruce Ramsdell, fundraiser, Josh Kellogg who is the museum director and Susan Ahlers, a new museum board member and volunteer.
Josh and Susan have written and instituted a protocol making it possible for volunteers with little training to actually come into the museum to learn how to convert the microfilm to PDF. Susan has experience in document preservation and has graciously and diligently begun the process. It can be laborious and an eye for detail and a knack for patience is crucial.  
How long will it take?  Susan can do about 8 months of issues in 5 hours.  At that rate I would estimate it may take several years depending on available manpower.  At the end of our project we will be able to retire our film and allow the community to have easy and fast access to the historic newspapers of Moody County.  
I started the fundraising last September during the 50th class reunion of FHS Class of 1968. My classmates toured the museum and several chipped in.  We have already raised $6,560. Our goal is $16,560. That leaves $10,000.  This will pay for the new scanner, the associated software and about $5000 towards volunteer costs. Average donations have been $50 to $500.
As the scanner and software to run it has already been purchased, the funds raised now will help to replenish the museum’s banking account.
Please invest in our history and donate.
You will have access to 144 years of local newspaper history and preserve a precious resource.  Many years after you are gone your descendants will be able to research you and your family from their own computer.
As a physician, I recommend genealogical study as therapy. “Know your family, know yourself.”
This summer over the 4th of July Flandreau is celebrating her 150th birthday and there is an All Class Flandreau High School Reunion. During that week on Thursday, July 4th, there will be a festival at the museum. For our donors we will host a demonstration of our new scanner. Day and time to be announced.
Please send your donation to Moody County Historical Society, 706 E. Pipestone Ave, Flandreau, SD 57028.  Make checks out to MCHS and add “newspaper preservation” on your check.  Depending on your situation your donation may be tax deductible.

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