Newspapers published in areas of extreme political upheaval or armed conflict are by definition at-risk. Risks range from regime suppression of minority or opposition viewpoints to destruction as collateral damage from military operations. Preserving this essential “first draft of history” to serve future research presents formidable challenges.
In recent years, the Area Materials Projects (AMPs) that operate under the CRL organizational umbrella have committed considerable resources to rescuing and ensuring sustained access to contemporary newspapers from areas rife with political instability. A notable example in FY14 was MEMP’s support for digitization of two Iraqi-related newspapers: Ḥabzbūz, an illustrated Arabic language newspaper satirizing events and public figures during the period of the US occupation, and al-Ira¯q, published in California to serve the Iraqi diaspora community. Both papers were originally collected by David Hirsch, Jewish and Middle Eastern Studies Bibliographer at UCLA, who takes a special interest in preserving diaspora material.
MEMP has gone on to approve funding to microfilm 18 Iraqi newspaper titles from the immediate post-invasion period (mostly from 2004–05), with completion expected in 2014–15. And SAMP as well as MEMP is microfilming recent newspapers from Afghanistan. This microfilming will augment previous preservation efforts by the Library of Congress. The titles were initially collected by LC field offices in Islamabad and Cairo.
Joe Lauer, Africana Librarian at Michigan State University, took an interest many years ago in collecting newspapers from Liberia, which he knew would ultimately be a unique resource for scholars in North America. From the resulting collection, seven titles running from the late 1990s through 2011 were recently microfilmed. The period covered includes the 1997–2003 rule of former President Charles Taylor, when Liberia was plagued with civil war and unrest, and the subsequent election in 2005 of the first female head of state in Africa, Ellen Johnson Sirleaf. Taylor has since been convicted by the Special Court for Sierra Leone in The Hague of aiding and abetting war crimes. The Liberian titles, which represent various political perspectives, were filmed with funding from CAMP and are available to the CRL community at large.