The Janet A. Ginsburg Chicago Tribune Collection

About the Project

The Chicago Tribune Digitization Project began at Michigan State University in 2008 with funding from the McCormick Foundation. The successful grant application, submitted by Communication Arts and Sciences Associate Dean and now School of Journalism Director and Professor Dr. Lucinda Davenport, meant that the University’s stunning “Janet A. Ginsburg Chicago Tribune Collection” would be restored, preserved and archived and that materials would be digitized and made accessible to scholars around the world via the World Wide Web.

The MSU Libraries accepted the tasks of physical restoration, storage and digitization of the Tribune pages in the Spring of 2009 after an initial evaluation of the collection by Director of Libraries Cliff Haka, Assistant Director of Libraries for Digital Information Shawn Nicholson and Digital Projects Manager Elizabeth Bollinger. It was agreed that the Libraries would house the materials in perpetuity, create 600ppi, 24 bit color, high resolution digital files, design a website with advance searching capabilities and provide server space and user access into the future.

Project planning began immediately within the Libraries as several units were brought in to provide expertise in various areas of concern.

Peter Berg, Assistant Director of Libraries for Special Collections and Preservation and Eric Alstrom, Head of Collections Conservation were charged with creating a plan for housing the newspapers in the Libraries’ rare book facility and with the preservation and restoration of the items. The eventual deacidifaction of the newsprint and the removal of a pre-existing and obsolete lamination were carried out by Conservation staff.

Document scanning and digital file creation for the project was assigned to the Digital and Multimedia Center/G. Robert Vincent Voice Library (DMC/VVL), the MSU Libraries unit responsible for in-house print and electronic media digitization. DMC/VVL staff, under the direction of Shawn Nicholson, conducted a planning process which included the selection of imaging and file specifications and database, file storage, metadata schema, workflow and budgeting design. The DMC/VVL team included John Shaw, Assistant Unit Head/Supervisor, Rick Peiffer, Information Technologist, Lucas Mak, Metadata Librarian, and Elizabeth Bollinger.

To insure archival quality imaging, it was decided that the A1 size newspaper pages would be scanned in a single pass, rather than stitching together multiple images and that the camera used must shoot a true, not interpolated, 600ppi image. After an exhaustive, world-wide search for a device that met all of the exacting specifications, the DigiBook SupraScan AO/E scanner was selected and purchased by the University.

Web page design was undertaken by Library Web Services, under Unit Head Kelly Sattler. Programmer Ben Reiter and Web Designer Jennifer Brandon, evaluated data and projected user needs and created a mock-up intended to be both visually appealing and highly functional. This prototype was reviewed by all involved in the project.

After receipt of the Tribune Collection by the Libraries in Spring 2009, all pages were inventoried and collated by Elizabeth Bollinger and Library Specialist Emily Peiffer. Special document handling and processing training was given to all twenty of the DMC/VVL undergraduate student workforce and Lucas Mak and Emily Peiffer instructed all in metada collection techniques.

The undergraduates began work with the arrival of the new SupraScan planetary document scanner in August 2009. Both sides of each newspaper page were scanned and the students cropped a black band around each image and straightened it as necessary using Creative Suite 2.

After a quality control review of each master image, PDF derivatives with background OCR were made using Read Iris Corporate Edition and JPG files using Creative Suite 2.

Student Supervisor Grace Metz and John Shaw managed the workflow at all stages under the oversight of Elizabeth Bollinger as Project Manager.

Lucas Mak crafted the eventually-used metadata schema, provided training and being responsible for final subject analysis and quality control. Under his guidance, the collection of metadata from either a physical page or a digital image was gathered in several stages, from rudimentary descriptive and technical details (image type, size) being gathered automatically or by undergraduate and graduate students to advanced descriptive data. This latter stage placed the digitized images into historical perspective.

Principle scanning of all of the Tribune pages was completed by January 2010. Image manipulation and derivative creation was completed by March and metadata creation in April 2010. Website design was finished in May and a test of the site created by Web Services was launched.

The MSU Libraries signed off on all initial project responsibilities in June 2010. Refining of all product continues as does the serving of the Tribune website and the storage of all archival digital files and the storage of the physical collection in MSU Libraries’ Special Collections.


The Janet A. Ginsburg Chicago Tribune Collection Project adopts Qualified Dublin Core (QDC) as the project’s metadata scheme. QDC is more granular than the Simple Dublin Core (DC) hence allows more flexibility in the item description. Besides, item description is mainly done by students with supervision from a professional librarian. The relatively simple structure of QDC suits the nature of this type of operation.

This project uses 18 elements from the QDC element set with local qualifiers for some elements.