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The first issue of the Door County Advocate – and everything that followed to 1923 – is now online and searchable at www.doorcountynewspapers.org.
The first issue of the Door County Advocate – and everything that followed to 1923 – is now online and searchable at www.doorcountynewspapers.org.

It isn’t often a librarian gets several shout-outs, but Door County adult services librarian Laura Kayacan won praises from Door County Board members Tuesday after her presentation.

Kayacan has been mining a gold mine of local historic information by digitizing every edition of Door County’s newspapers published between 1862 and 1923, beginning with the Door County Advocate of March 22, 1862.

The collection includes the Door County Advocate, which was known simply as The Advocate from 1897 to 1912, then the Sturgeon Bay Advocate from 1912 to 1918 before merging with the Door County Democrat and returning to its original name.

Also online are the Democrat, Expositor, Independent, Republican and Door County News.

Kayacan told the board some true stories that can be found in the archives of Door County’s local newspapers. There was “the Giant of Gills Rock,” who in 1916 would carry people around hanging onto his beard.

“I looked up your names, and all of your last names are in there,” she told the board.

Kayacan sought out funding for the project with the encouragement of County Board Chairman Dan Austad.

“She really deserves a lot of credit for this,” Austad said. “People all over the world will be able to research Door County.”

Kayacan was able to secure grants and funding for the $22,000 needed for the first phase of digitization. Her next step is to begin the years 1924-1940 but needs to find more funding for the next sequence. She also needs to check that there are no copyrights on bylines of authors.

Byte by byte, her goal is to have all local newspaper accounts archived to help researchers and geneologists across the world connect with people and events in Door County.

The project allows people to look up any word or phase at www.doorcountynewspapers.org and the computer will do the work of searching for that name or phrase in the old papers and highlighting it in yellow. It replaces having to strain eyeballs on microfilms, which over the years have become scratchy. It also means not having to physically come to Door County to plow through old records to find out about someone’s past birth or death, marriage or mishap – as long as it was printed in a local paper.

The Door County Advocate gave Kayacan her access to a copy of microfilm that had not been publicly used and is clearer for viewing. She has gone through 40 reels of microfilm and with the help of volunteers has been able to categorize all 6,000 issues with 6,000 lines of data. The volunteers have already begun working on the next 16-year span.

The process requires first transferring the information to a DVD, then uploading to a website so it is available on the Internet. The digitized articles called “Door County Newspaper Archives” went online with their own website and on the Door County library site on Nov. 14. Since that time there have been 943 visits with a notable number researching Belgian relatives and history.

“People are slowly learning about it,” she said.

She invited board members to check out the site for a new tidbit from the past daily by any topic that might suit them. For example, if someone wanted to do a simple search on “The Titanic” they could read how that was reported in various papers in Door County and what thoughts were in 1912. The search also works very well on an electronic tablet.

“You get a good idea of how people actually lived,” Kayacan said.

To do a search of people, places and events in the Door County Advocate and other local papers from 1862 to 1923, visit www.doorcountynewspapers.org.

Contact Ramelle Bintz at rbintz@doorcountyadvocate.com.

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