Nadia Nasr, Head of Archives & Special Collections at the SCU Library, thinks you can learn a lot from a student newspaper. Not just about what’s happening at a school, but in the world around it.
Thanks to a six-month project by Archives & Special Collections, now researchers can learn a lot more from The Santa Clara student newspaper. Since September, all 2,367 issues of The Santa Clara dated between 1922 through 2013 are now available on the library’s website.
The digitization project was a massive undertaking—totaling more than 24,000 individual pages. The online database allows keyword searches within the scanned newspaper images, meaning you can search for mentions of friends, family, sports, clubs, and favorite faculty.
"It is a great project, something we initiated just to increase overall accessibility," Nasr says. "Before this project we didn’t have any paper indexes. If you wanted to know what was being reported about a particular event or individual, you kind of had to know the time period."
Though newspapers are no longer the primary medium for news, they’re a valuable archival resource. With an online archive, researchers can remotely learn about a time directly from the people who lived it.
Take March 22, 1961—one of the most notorious editions of The Santa Clara. The double decker headline on the front page reads "Tradition Shattered", reflecting the misguided panic some male administrators and students had to the announcement that Santa Clara would be a co-educational institution.
But if you look closer, there was some optimism. Beyond the statements of regret and discomfort from the University administration and the newspaper staff itself, there are encouraging, progressive voices mixed in.
Richard Lautze '39, the president of the Santa Clara Alumni Association at the time, called the move "a better service to the community". "I am very happy. I have four daughters," Lautze said.
Then-president of Associated Students University of Santa Clara, Jerry Kerr, said, "Progress has to be served. … I think people will see the reasons behind it. The University has to move forward and this is a necessary step."
That’s the value of a primary resource like a newspaper.
And Nasr says the archive is full of valuable lessons about Santa Clara, the Mission church, and the United States as a whole. Looking through old issues you can learn a lot about everything from Vatican II to the civil rights movement to the changing role of higher ed—all can be traced through the archive.
"It is easy to think 'Oh, university history, whatever,'" Nasr says, "but you really do see a lot of what was happening on a national scale reflected locally and in microcosm on your campus communities."