About Schuylkill County Historical Society
The purpose of the Schuylkill County Historical Society is to discover, procure, and preserve the records of the history of the county. The Society has a priceless collection of historical materials of Schuylkill County for the benefit of members, researchers, scholars, and the general public.
Making Historical Documents More Accessible for Researchers
One of the historical society’s prized records is the microfilm archives of the Miners’ Journal newspaper. Published weekly, the Miners’ Journal served as the record of daily life in Schuylkill County from 1825 to 1951; noting births, deaths, business transactions, and much more!
“We had this great resource for researchers,” said Thomas B. Drogalis, Schuylkill County Historical Society, Executive Director. “Unfortunately, searching through the microfilm archives was a tedious process which required manually going through screen by screen of each preserved page. We wanted to make the documents more accessible for researchers.”
The first step in realizing Drogalis’ goal came when the society received a $1,425 grant from the Schuylkill Area Community Foundation to purchase new computers. Now with the new computers in place, the Historical Society was ready to start the process of converting its newspaper microfilm collection to digital files.
When Drogalis began his search for a company that could do the microfilm conversion, he quickly identified IMR Digital, which is located in nearby West Hazleton, PA. He set up a meeting to discuss the project and was impressed with IMR Digital’s production facility and state-of-the-art scanning equipment.
“When the historical society approached us about converting the microfilm files to digital format to make them searchable,” said Anthony Parrell, IMR Digital Director of Conversion Services., “I instantly knew that we had the perfect technology to make it happen. We had been doing a similar conversion process for Ancentry.com using our state-of-the-art ribbon Flexscan scanners. The machine scans an entire reel of microfilm, and then the software breaks up the page images on each reel into individual documents.”
“IMR Digital has over 30 years of experience in helping libraries, historical societies, and governmental agencies preserve and protect the only record of our past. We know all too well that these groups are just one broken pipe, fire, or flood away from losing hundreds of years of history,” said Buttgereit. “We take our responsibility of providing our customers with quality digital images that preserve history very seriously.”
The Schuylkill County Historical Society approached long-time supporters Dr. Ray Leidich and his wife Dolores, of Tremont, PA about underwriting the effort to convert the newspaper microfilm. The Leidichs agreed to donate $5,000 to the society to finance the project.
IMR Digital Brings History into the Digital Age
All 245 rolls of 35mm microfilm of the archival newspapers were delivered to IMR Digital’s production facility. It was estimated that each microfilm roll contained an average of 1,000 frames, which meant that over 245,000 images had to be digitized then output as multi-page PDF files.
“Understandably, some of the historical newspaper images were less than perfect,” said Buttgereit. IMR Digital wanted to make sure that they provided the highest quality image possible so that images for the people doing research were crisp and clear. “We did a lot of resolution enhancement. We adjusted the brightness and the contrast and got rid of a lot of “pepper,” the stray bits of black that show up on the microfilm. We also straightened the pages out.”
Once the images were digitized as PDF files, IMR Digital performed an Optical Character Recognition (OCR) scan to make each record searchable. OCR allows people doing genealogical research in past issues of the Miners’ Journal to search by family name or other phrases to find relevant articles in the newspaper archive.
Historical Society Donor Discovers Family History
After the conversion process was complete, Drogalis and the IMR Digital team met the Leidichs at the Schuylkill County Historical Society research library to give them a special demonstration of the digital newspaper archives.
Mr. Leidich’s father, Ray D., had been a well-known athlete in the area. Drogalis was able to quickly find a number of articles in the Miners’ Journal about Mr. Leidich’s father by simply typing “Leidich” in the search box. With a click of the mouse, a search through the newspaper archives from 1825 to 1951 was done.
The search revealed several articles including one published in the Nov. 16, 1921, edition, was in a section of the paper called “In the realm of the sports fan.” Titled “Leidich Returns,” the column stated: “Ray Leidich, great all-around athlete of Tremont, arrived home this week from an extended visit to Denver, where he went to see his brother, who was thought to be dying. Leidich is soon to undergo an operation for tonsils and adenoids at the Pottsville hospital, and for that reason, he will be out of athletics until after the Christmas holidays when he will return to Susquehanna University. After that time, he may play a few games with Tremont.”
“This speed with which you can get the results, what you’re looking for, and the improved clarity, it’s amazing,” said. Leidich. While describing this technology that allows for faster, clearer results, Drogalis said, “We went from The Flintstones to The Jetsons,”.
“From start to finish the IMR Digital team has been an outstanding group of professionals, who have guided us through each phase of the conversion process and supported us with excellent customer service,” said Drogalis.