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Cheboygan community unites to digitize its historic newspaper

The Cheboygan Democrat chronicled Northern Michigan's rapid growth from 1880 through 1927

Contact: Dan Digmann


Reprinted from Reference Point Spring 2015 ​

​Mark Bronson knew The Cheboygan Democrat, a weekly newspaper published from 1880 through 1927, was among the only newspapers that chronicled the rapid growth of Northern Michigan when the economy was booming and the area was profitably supplying the nation's demand for lumber.

When a friend notified him of Clarke Historical Library's Michigan Digital Newspaper Grant Program opportunity in 2014, he worked with the Cheboygan community to apply for the funding needed to preserve the historical newspaper.

The grant process requires participants to explain the purpose for applying and the significance to Michigan history of the publication for which they are applying. Five finalist communities were selected in 2014, and a contest was hosted to determine which would receive the most electronic votes from the community. And whichever received the most electronic votes secured the grant.

Cheboygan won.

"We couldn't have done it without the help and support of the community," Bronson, Cheboygan Area Public Library director, said. "The Cheboygan Area Chamber of Commerce and Cheboygan County Genealogy Department helped apply, the Cheboygan Tribune helped promote, and the people voted on Facebook."

Clarke Library awarded the Cheboygan public library $1,200 to digitize The Cheboygan Democrat, making its information easily accessible through CMU's Online Digital Repository (CONDOR). 

"The digitization has dramatically enhanced the research process," Bronson said. "It has saved researchers hours or even days of browsing through old newspaper microfilms by hand." 

Having the newspaper available online has made a huge impact, according to Kim Hagerty, Clarke Library microforms specialist.

"We've seen more than a 2,000 percent increase in searches on CONDOR from Cheboygan," Hagerty said. "The increase speaks to how well the community pulled together to promote their grant application and let others know CONDOR is available."

The grant is funded from an endowment established by Robert and Susan Clarke to support the process of microfilming and digitizing historical Michigan documents.

The grant awards a portion of the endowment each year to a community in need of financial support for a digitizing project. The spring 2015 grant recipient is Milford, which plans to digitize The Milford Times. Read future Reference Point issues to hear why they were selected and the impact digitization of the newspaper is making in their community.


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