The Columbian 1891-1925 — Montana Historical Society

Author: Stefan Boddie, Managing Director, DL Consulting Ltd.
Date: 2014-06-22

He could have been fishing, but Pat Walsh had other notions for how to spend his free time.

That was the opening line in the Veridian grant proposal submitted by Christine Kirkham, Coordinator of the Montana Digital Newspaper Project. When Kirkham noticed the invitation for proposals last winter, her first thought was of the retired sheriff’s deputy living in tiny Columbia Falls in Northwest Montana. She knew that Pat Walsh had spent a year sitting at a microfilm reader at his local library, scanning and saving nearly 6,000 newspaper pages.

“Pat still lives on the land his grandfather homesteaded, and he’s proud of the community’s history,” Kirkham states. “I was amazed when I heard about his painstaking efforts to digitize The Columbian. I wanted to be sure this wonderful resource was made available online.”

Kirkham has overseen the digitization of more than 350,000 newspaper pages for the National Digital Newspaper Program. And an additional 400,000 pages have been generated by small libraries around Montana. Due to rising costs of storage however, the state currently has no cost-effective way to present its rich newspaper history on the Internet.

A Veridian grant was therefore a great, no-cost opportunity to evaluate Veridian, and The Columbian was an ideal title for testing it.

“We were thrilled to be selected by Veridian for conversion of The Columbian to METS-ALTO and two years of free hosting. Although Pat’s methods for capturing the digital page images were unconventional, the TIFF images are more than adequate, and the quality of the optical character recognition is on par with other digitized newspapers. For anyone interested in the history of Northwest Montana, this collection will be a delight.”

All 5,954 pages were processed to produce page-level METS/ALTO and NDNP-quality JPEG2000 images. The processed data was then loaded into Veridian, and is now online at

Veridian’s standard features have been enabled for evaluation, including crowd-sourced OCR text correction, comments, tags, and private lists. Veridian’s Search Engine Optimization (SEO) features are also all enabled, ensuring the contents of the collection will be crawled and indexed by Google and other web search engines. And Google Analytics is turned on so we can track how many patrons use the site. In addition to that the collection has been indexed by