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Engaging Communities Through Online Archives of Historical Newspapers

Historical newspapers are essential to our cultural heritage, encapsulating the social, economic, and political nuances of different time periods. As we advance in the digital age, many newspapers have been digitized and made available to communities for free online via search platforms like the Community History Archives. This transformation provides a window to our past and allows libraries to engage their communities in innovative ways. 

Partnerships between local public libraries and Advantage Archives have created hundreds of archives freely accessible to the public. Libraries nationwide have leveraged these digitized archives to connect patrons with their community’s past interactively and engagingly. Online access to these newspapers allows us to view history through the eyes of those who witnessed it firsthand, making historical exploration a much more immersive experience.

Advantage Archives core values: Community, Engagement, Partnership

A digital archive can be so much more than a research resource; it also makes for a powerful engagement tool. Libraries can use excerpts from local historical newspapers to tell compelling stories on their social media platforms or blogs.  To maximize the reach and impact of the online newspaper archives, library staff can share captivating articles, interesting anecdotes, or intriguing historical photographs to pique curiosity and drive traffic to the online resource. 

Engaging social media campaigns, virtual exhibits, and interactive quizzes can further enhance community participation, facilitating dialogue and promoting the archives as an essential community asset. A few ideas that were inspired by the partners of Advantage Archives, whose libraries have employed their Community History Archives in unique ways to connect with their communities, include:


  • A Treasure Hunt Through Time: Guide your patrons through a series of clues found in the pages of your local newspaper, leading them to discover interesting facts, events, and stories about their local community,
  • Local Storytelling with Historical Newspapers: A series of posts can be curated around specific themes, such as “This Day in History,” “Local Heroes,” or “Mystery Stories from the Past.” These posts can encourage discussions, spark curiosity, and drive engagement.
  • Interactive History Challenges: Organize online history challenges or quizzes using information from the digital newspaper archives. This could include identifying historical buildings, people, or events. Participants can search the archives to find answers, encouraging active engagement with the resource.
  • Collaborative Research Projects: Libraries can collaborate with local schools or community groups on research projects utilizing the library’s online archives. For example, a project could involve tracing the history of a local event or landmark. This will bring attention to the archives and strengthen the library’s relationships within the community.
  • Virtual Tours: Create virtual tours that take patrons on a journey through different time periods, using newspaper articles as stops along the way. These tours could be based on various themes like local business history, major events, or societal changes.


The digitization of historical newspapers has opened up new avenues for community engagement in libraries. The partnerships forged between community libraries and Advantage Archives have made well over a hundred million pages of historical newspapers freely available to communities across the country, allowing access to local history from anywhere, on any device, by anyone, at any time. 

Access to the community’s newspapers from the past offers a closer look at how national or global events influenced local events and people. These local papers often contained stories that might not have made it to national headlines. Therefore, they are an invaluable resource for anyone interested in community history and heritage. By integrating these resources into their content strategies and promoting the usage of these freely accessible primary sources, libraries can enhance their role as a community hub for learning and discovery. These newspapers offer more than just a glimpse into the past; they are a catalyst for connecting communities, sparking conversations, and fostering a deeper understanding of our shared history.

Free access to online archives of digitized historical local community newspapers, such as provided by the Community History Archives by Advantage Archives, holds tremendous potential for libraries to engage with their communities. By creatively utilizing these archives, libraries can preserve and share local history, foster a sense of community connection, and provide a platform for diverse voices. 

Engagement is at the core of the library’s mission, and leveraging the power of the free online access to newspaper archives via the Community History Archives search platform empowers libraries to create meaningful interactions, bridge generational gaps, and cultivate a strong sense of community pride and appreciation. Partner with Advantage Archives, and together we will provide access to anyone, from anywhere, at any time, on any device, for free, allowing your patrons to embrace these digital treasures and unlock a new era of community engagement through the captivating stories of our shared past.

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