After 92 years of student publication, Mercer’s student run newspaper has been digitized into an online database archive. The project is an exciting development for the Cluster, allowing people to access a large portion of its coverage of the 20th century.
The Cluster began its publication in 1920, during one of the strongest periods in American history prior to the Great Depression. It was named after the book of hymns owned by Jesse Mercer, the school’s founder. The Cluster Archive is an online database that has collected some 50 years of the Cluster for easy access.
The archive contains more than 5,000 pages and can be browsed by date or by full-text search. This allows complete access to the majority of the American century from the perspective of Mercer’s own newspaper.
Dr. Jay Black, Assistant Professor of Journalism is excited about the project and said that it has been in the works for some time. He said that this has “opened a window into Mercer’s past that was not available before.” According to Dr. Black, members of the Society for Collegiate Journalists investigated the possibility of a database a few years ago. At the same time, the library was investigating the idea as well. It was convenient timing for both parties.
“This project was done by people who deeply care about this university and its history,” said Dr. Black.
Elizabeth Hammond, Dean of Mercer’s Libraries, is excited about the work that she and her department are doing in this project. Hammond said that the Mercer papers are, “popular and rich resources for people interested in Mercer history.” She pointed out that students, faculty, alumni or even those interested in learning about the school could use this archive to find out about Mercer’s past.
The process is a time consuming venture that has cost $5,000 so far. Digitizing the Cluster involves taking microfilm records on file in the Tarver Library and converting them to digital image files. The files are then uploaded onto a system designed by the Digital Library of Georgia for newspaper archives.
Hammond explained that Laura Botts, Head of Special Collections, and Jeremy Brown, Head of Library Systems, led what she described as “a collaboration with the Digital Library of Georgia, a GALILEO initiative housed at the University of Georgia Library, who did the scanning and digitizing.” The Cluster is being hosted on the DLG Historic Newspapers server.
Hammond stated that there will be more papers added to the database once the funds are available. She also revealed that there are plans to digitize the papers of the other student newspapers from Tift College and the Atlanta campus.
This is a great opportunity for the current student body of Mercer. Editor-in-Chief of The Cluster, Kaleigh Manson is “very excited to have the opportunity to look back at old editions of The Cluster and see how much our student newspaper has changed.” She is also aware of the scholastic merits of the archive, saying that it will, “offer journalism students the chance to learn about how different topics were covered throughout those 50 years.”
Hammond also brought up the educational possibilities that the archive allows for. She said that Special Collections is already working with Mercer INT 101 students on campus history projects, and the online archive will make the work much easier.
The Cluster Archive is an ambitious project that propels Mercer among only a few universities with online databases of campus newspapers. The Cluster’s records of the early 20th century can be viewed as a chronicle of that century.
That chronicle of the American century is now easily accessible for all to view.