The Pittsburgh Jewish Newspaper Project is still in business.
Despite warnings by people connected with the online archive of past and present Pittsburgh Jewish newspapers that work on the site could be suspended by June, Carnegie Mellon University Libraries, which hosts the PJN, is still digitizing content and posting it online.
“We continue to do that as we fund-raise,” said Gabrielle Michalek, head of archives and digital library initiatives at CMU. “We continue to be optimistic. We’re working on a fund-raising campaign.”
CMU Libraries added a “please help” button to the PJN home page, pjn.library.cmu.edu, which takes visitors to a page with information about contributing to the project. Michalek said it’s too soon to say if that appeal for assistance is working.
The library system is also writing a grant, and approaching donors whom Michalek declined to name.
In May, CMU Libraries announced that the PJN project was out of money and work on the online archive could halt as soon as June.
If that were to happen, the site would remain online, but would also remain incomplete. Most of the issues of The Jewish Criterion have been digitized and are searchable at the archive, but The Chronicle, which was a partner in starting the project, is searchable only from 1962 — the year it began publication — through 1980. Only one year of The American Jewish Outlook — 1946 — is searchable.
CMU Libraries estimates it would take $100,000 to complete the project.
In the meantime, Web surfers continue to flock to the database, pushing its popularity beyond initial expectations.
Launched in 2007, the site attracts tens of thousands hits per month, including visitors from outside the Pittsburgh area. All are attracted to the 160,000 digitized pages of Jewish Pittsburgh history.
For now, CMU continues to develop the database at its own expense.
“Our fiscal year ends June 30. I think we’ll give it up when we think we just aren’t going to be successful fundraising, but as long as we have hope, we’ll limp along and hope we can pay the bills that are piling up.”
(Lee Chottiner can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.)