Finding Aid Friday: Newspaper Morgue Edition

Gawker is dead. Long live Gawker!

I am theoretically pouring one out for the site that broke the monotony of endless staple-removing sessions and kept me from weeping with boredom back when I was an active archivist.

Since the future of Gawker’s archive is still up in the air, this edition of Finding Aid Friday is dedicated to newspaper morgues. May they all be fully processed and preserved one day so that their content may live again.

A newspaper morgue is a collection of clippings, photos, and files compiled by newspaper staff during the life of the newspaper. Basically, it’s a depressing and outdated term for a newspaper’s library (another outdated thing, depressingly). When a newspaper folds (or just closes its collection), the file library is — sometimes, hopefully — shipped off somewhere where the collection will sit and wait until funding comes along for processing or a stray researcher comes in.

The Black Press Research Collective has a good article on newspaper morgues, what they were used for, and where some can be found today. This article on the old New York Times morgue also gives a feel for what once was.

The Library of Congress, which is an information genie offering a seemingly limitless number of wishes, has resource lists for newspaper photograph morgues and individual  newspaper archives in the US and abroad.

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Harry Ransom Center

I’d be remiss if I didn’t write about at least one of these figurative cadavers sent off to be stored on a steel slab somewhere: The New York Journal-American, 1937-1966, was one of many newspapers owned by William Randolph Hearst. When it folded, its clippings went to the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History and its photo file to the Harry Ransom Center, both at the University of Texas at Austin.

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Briscoe Center

Items lucky enough to go to the latter were processed to the hilt: there’s a finding aid (here), a photo database (here), and a large selection of digitized photographs available online (here).

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Journal-American’s digitized photo morgue. Harry Ransom Center

The Briscoe Center is, oddly enough, a happening place for New York newspaper morgues. Clipping libraries for the New York Herald-Tribune,  New York Journal-American, New York Times, and Newsweek are all located in Texas. Which is, in all honesty, the last place any native New Yorker expects to go after death.


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