Breeze archives project

Digital collections librarian Laura Davis led the archiving project to digitize thousands of articles and stories dating back to The Breeze’s first issue in 1922. The archived collection consists of physical and online copies. 

Today, students can access a complete collection of The Breeze dating back until the first issue, which was printed on Dec. 2, 1922. This collection is in the form of both physical and online digital copies, as well as microfilm — a length of film containing microphotographs of a newspaper, catalog or other document, used before the popularity of the Internet.

Laura Davis, a digital collections librarian at JMU and the leader of The Breeze’s digitizing project, believes that this project provides students and researchers alike to have an original, first-hand account of the Harrisonburg and JMU community throughout this time period.

According to Davis, whatever the research subject may be, a trace may be found in The Breeze from history.

“The JMU libraries have a long-standing commitment to provide access to, and preserve The Breeze,“ Davis said. “Our goal within the libraries is to provide access to this incredible resource now and for generations to come.”

Originally, digital copies of The Breeze were kept on the Madison Digital Image Database and were transferred from microfilm starting in 2011.

In 2014, the new system, JMU Scholarly Commons, became the new system that The Breeze is now stored on. The system is now running.

According to Davis, one of the ways to streamline the research process is to access the records online and use a keyword search on a digital platform called JMU Scholarly Commons software.

“When JMU acquired the JMU Scholarly Commons software, The Breeze was identified as one of the collections that should be in JMU Scholarly Commons,” Davis said. “Support for The Breeze project is incorporated into the acquisition and launch of JMU Scholarly Commons.”

Physical copies of The Breeze issues are also kept well-protected inside Carrier Library. In order to see them, interested individuals will have to be escorted by a collections librarian, such as Lynn Eaton. Once down the stairs, the collection librarian must unlock a grate door before allowing visitors to descend a lower level. Here, there are several greenish-blue boxes carefully labeled The Breeze with their corresponding dates, among many other historical texts and organizational boxes.

The yellow time-battered sheets are carefully ordered.

The original publications of The Breeze only ran four pages, but they are now single pages for the purposes of scanning, according to Eaton.

“Its very cool to look back at the physical items instead of just looking at it online,” Eaton said. “But it’s very important to have it online because people can’t make it here all the time.

One of the most interesting things about these old texts, according to Davis and Eaton, are the advertisements. Both women felt the advertisements capture an image of the Harrisonburg and JMU communities through imagery and sales pitches.

But compiling every copy of The Breeze into one collection was no simple task, according to Davis. A team comprised of April Beckler, David Gaines, Patricia Hardesty, Kevin Hegg, Steven Holloway, Mark Lane, Kate Morries, Mark Peterson, Mark Purington, Jen Short and the student workers from Digital Collections, was integral to the gathering of this stockpile of historical text, Davis said. Team members work various jobs in Carrier, giving it a wide breadth of skills and specialties that became useful quickly, according to Mark Lane, the E-Books coordinator for the libraries and project manager.

“It became a pretty large project as we quality-control checked all the PDF documents and we had to recreate some of the PDFs … by scanning some of the original documents of the microfilm to find inconsistencies,” Lane said.

Davis believes that the effect this project will have on the future of The Breeze and the historical research done by students will be massive.

“The variety of information contained within The Breeze is incredible, from the advertisements from local stores, photographs and descriptions of on-campus events, articles about happenings in and around campus, and much more,” Davis said. “Researchers have better access to the contents of The Breeze, allowing it to be used for research and reminiscing.”

Records of The Breeze can be viewed at breezejmu.org/archives.

Contact Ian Munro at munroiu@dukes.jmu.edu.