I spent much of yesterday in the East Baton Rouge Parish Public Library, reading through the microfilm archive of the Baton Rouge Morning Advocate, the predecessor of today’s Advocate, the sole remaining daily outlet here. I’m doing this at the East Baton Rouge Parish Public Library, wherein I have not set foot since high school, because they have the only complete set of the paper’s microfilms. The LSU Library has weirdly spotty holdings, and is completely missing the first year that I need to read. Which is just bizarre. That said, it’s been cool, if time-consuming and mildly nausea-inducing, going back through these papers and watching history unfold. But I’m really wishing there were a better way to get the stuff I’m looking for. And so I’ve got this running dialogue in my head:
— Do I really need to read the entire paper, for the whole year?
No. There’s a particular set of stories that I’m trying to track.
— Couldn’t I do that electronically, by, like, figuring out what days the stories I’m tracking appeared, and then just hop on the microfilm to get the stories themselves?
No. The Advocate’s own electronic archive only dates from 1995. And Lexis-Nexis, which happily does index the Advocate, dates all the way back to 1994.
— What year does the story you’re trying to track start?
— So, you’re, like, loading up the machine with the film of Jan. 1- Jan. 20, 1953, and paging through the entire thing, looking for relevant headlines?
— How long is that taking?
About an hour per month.
— How many years do you want to cover?
Not wall-to-wall. But the stories I’m looking at extend at least over that period of time.
— Isn’t there a better way of doing this?
That’s where I pretty much stall out, every time through this little dialogue. And I stop, and I search around for another index that might help me, and I grind my teeth and go back to the microfilm.
The good news is that there’s a dissertation out there that covers much of what I’m interested in, and that will probably help me narrow down the post-1953 work I need to do. The bad news is that the dissertation has been checked out, and isn’t due back for another three days, assuming it comes in on time.
Of course, it’s also available on microfilm.