Improving access to different views of history

Database chronicles life in the Pacific Northwest in the early 1900s

Doctoral student Ying Lee researches language literacy and technology. She also holds a day job with WSU Libraries, scanning physical collections to digital form.

Her work helps to build the Kimble Northwest History Database, an online repository of some 300,000 to 400,000 newspaper clippings collected in the late 1930s by the Works Progress Administration. In 2001, WSU alumni Wallis and Marilyn Kimble donated seed money to launch the digitization effort.

The database gives researchers ready access to newspaper accounts that vividly document life in the Pacific Northwest from 1900 to 1938. Topics covered include Bonneville and Grand Coulee Dams, mining, Native Americans, government, the CCC and the WPA.

Ms. Lee is one of numerous students who work on the digitization project each year. As she scanned newspaper articles, she learned how historical events could be interpreted in multiple ways, depending upon the reporter’s point of view.

“I saw how American journalists perceived the same event differently, who was subjective and who was objective in their reporting,” Ms. Lee said. “To understand what really happened, you have to separate these perceptions out and decide what you want to believe.”