Last Sunday I wrote about something new at The Daily Item — daily news, sports and weather updates now available on the Amazon Alexa devices and app. Already, according to the metrics we receive from Amazon, hundreds have begun to listen.

Today I get to write about something that, while technically new, is really about bringing something old — the rich history of the Susquehanna Valley — to searchable new life. 

We’re excited and delighted to be the latest partner of newspapers.com, which is part of ancestry.com.

There’s a link on our web page that will take you to the site where more than 613,000 pages of Daily Item editions, dating back to 1971, are now digitized and fully searchable.

The service will be available free in the coming days and weeks at Susquehanna Valley libraries. It is already up and running at the Degenstein Community Library in Sunbury, which for many years has stored and made available to patrons The Daily Item’s microfilm reels.

Library director Melissa Rowse last week called the online archive “wonderful.”

“What a great service to be able to provide to residents of Sunbury and the surrounding communities,” she told Daily Item Managing Editor Bill Bowman.

The archive is also available for a subscription fee of $4.95 a month or $19.95 for six months — for personal use on computers and other electronic devices.

For an additional fee, you can also choose to access newspapers.com’s entire collection — which includes more than 450 million pages from 11,200 newspapers.

Sounds like a terrific Christmas present to me.

I’m obviously biased, but I think this archive is, as the late ESPN sportscaster Stuart Scott used to say — “cooler than the other side of the pillow.”

It is also, I must warn you, pretty addictive.

Last week, as we prepared to launch, Bowman found himself drawn in looking for articles about his football playing days (1990-92) at Danville High.

“At first I searched my name and it mostly popped up hundreds of bylines I’ve had over the years,” Bowman said. “I narrowed the search by time frame to when I played sports and was surprised how much my name popped up. I was able to read a story about winning playoff games in football. I searched specifically by date to read about a game when we beat Shikellamy 15-14. I remembered we drove late to win. Didn’t realize it was 95 yards in the last 4 minutes and we won a 2-point conversion with 14 seconds left.”

The searchable collection is a work in progress. Right now, users can search and review Daily Item content dating back to  Jan. 2, 1971. The archive is currently up to date through the end of November and will be continuously updated monthly, thanks to our IT manager Larry Schaeffer, who has played a big role in making this happen.

Within a few months, the entire Daily Item archive, dating back to its founding in 1937, will be online. There are also more than 100,000 pages already archived Danville News/Morning News pages with more to come.

Newspapers have often been referred to as the first rough draft of history. I couldn’t be happier that we’ve been able to arrange to provide access to many decades of those drafts.

Email comments to dlyons@dailyitem.com

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