Rebecca Marsh

equinox staff 


Archives can be a window to the past. They serve the public through research and help guide people in the right direction. Using the Internet as a repository for these archives helps store information about the past.

Keene State College’s Archivist Rodney Obien developed a web page to aid Professor Marianne Salcetti’s class “Mass Media History and Theory” through their research on the Civil War.

Melinda noel / equinox staff Keene State College’s Archivist Rodney Obien spoke about the archive he developed in the Madison Street Lounge on Feb. 18.

Melinda noel / equinox staff
Keene State College’s Archivist Rodney Obien spoke about the archive he developed in the Madison Street Lounge on Feb. 18.

The students researched an aspect of the Civil War and had to see how both sides of the war, presented the Civil War in their newspapers and look at the propaganda used in the North and South.

Obien presented his web page and two students from the class presented their papers on Feb. 19 at 4:30 p.m. in the Madison Street Lounge.

“It was very time consuming. We needed to have, I think it was 20 newspaper archives,” journalism junior and Equinox staff member Alison Lamell said. Lamell was a student in the class. She researched Lincoln for her paper. “I just kind of got a better respect from him as a President, but I also just saw kind of inside his head,” Lamell said.

Senior Joe Raposa was also in the class. “It was actually pretty fun,” Raposa said, “The database is set up in such a way that you can read through each newspaper article and pretty much be reading in chronological order of how the story was written.”

The web page is called, “The American Historical Newspaper Database.”

According to Obien, it is a place for people to go to access archives such as old newspaper articles and other primary sources. It includes over five million electronic documents that include videos, books and other sources such as sound recordings. Obien said that this is freely accessible to “anyone who is interested in the material.

The Mason Library has been very much interested in bringing and teaching primary sources in the classroom,” Obien said.

“We had a really wonderful class,” Obien said, “If you’re a student, I think being able to access this material digitally is something that you wouldn’t have been able to do 20 years ago.”

He continued, “You would actually have to travel hundreds of miles to different repositories all over the North and South. Now you can stay in bed and you can search these things.”

Lamell said that this project was challenging in finding specific archives, but with the help of Obien’s web page she was able to find many archives of northern and southern newspapers from the time period and learned many new things. “I just saw the differences in the North and South during the Civil War,” Lamell said.

Raposa had a similar idea. “I’ve worked with some databases before like Ebscohost and those kind of give you a jumbled cluster of things,” Raposa said, “What I like about this is a site like that gives you access to a lot of research items that you would normally have to go elsewhere to obtain.”

Both Lamell and Raposa agreed that the Internet being a repository helps out a lot in the modern world. “We’re definitely just very lucky to have the Internet,” Lamell said, “It makes researching a lot easier and we’re able to learn things that I don’t think I would have if I didn’t do all of that research.”

“I am actually a pretty big fan of the digitalization. It makes research papers much easier to do as well as you can also get a lot more in just a smaller frame of time,” Raposa said.

According to Obien, the Internet as a cultural repository does the job it is intended for, but he is still a big fan of paper copies.

“It shows the power of the Internet and the web, but at the same time, myself as an archivist, digitization is not preservation. Digitization is more access, making things more accessible, making things more democratic,” Obien said.

Junior Krista Sullivan attended the event. She said that, “Archives, to me, are a little intimidating so this [web page] makes it easier to access.” Sullivan said that it is impressive to see what the archives are able to document. She is hoping to use this website to access archives for her Women’s and Gender Studies Capstone.

Lamell said that from this project she learned, “what an important tool archives are and how it leads to a lot of history research.” She included, “It [the Internet] just makes it [research] a lot more accessible and easier.”

Raposa said he learned that it is good to “question the media.” He added, “It’s [the web page] a really good resource and I hope it gets used a lot by everybody.”

According to Obien, the main focus of an archivist will always be to preserve the original material, but the Internet helps guide people in the right direction.

“It presents a lot of opportunities in the sense of being able to share information widely and being able to democratize things. The other side of it, the big disadvantage, is privacy,” Obien said.

A good thing for journalists, according to Obien, is going to the source. It presents a good learning experience.

Obien said, “As an archivist, I believe that the less barriers we have to information … the better. A better informed society is a freer one.”


Rebecca Marsh can be contacted at

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