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Losing The Paper Chase
7/31/2014
Original copies of newspapers are a thing of the past.

As you search for mentions of ancestors in newspapers, most likely you won't be flipping through pages, but rather cranking through plastic sheets on a microfilm reader. But what if the film cuts off some important text? Or blackens out a photo of your ancestor? You might want to check the original newspaper to see what you're missing. Chances are, though, you're out of luck.

According to the new book Double Fold: Libraries and the Assault on Paper by Nicholson Baker (Random House), "the annihilation of once accessible collections of major daily papers of the late 19th and 20th centuries is pretty close to total." Since the advent of microfilm in the 1930s, libraries have been photographing their massive newspaper collections to preserve them on microfilm, then selling off or throwing away the originals.

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