Preserving Iowa's History Is A Shared Responsibility

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The Advantage Companies are very pleased to be continuing our work with the State Historical Society of Iowa. Under the Iahistory initiative, we will collaborate  to microfilm and provide digital access to more than 12 million pages of Iowa newspapers. With this new plan, we are now able to take an even more active role in preserving Iowa’s history.

Over the past six years, we have provided our services at no cost to the state, and we will continue to do so now and in the future. We will continue to work directly with libraries, whose funding sources include HRDP Grants from the Department Of Cultural Affairs, as well as other local and community grants. The libraries currently supplement those grants through donations, sponsorship, Friends of the Library programs, and independent fundraising efforts.

We intend to help the community identify additional funding sources to microfilm the yet to be preserved pages and scan them if necessary. Digitization will supplement the microfilming as a means to offer more practical access. The digital availability will be at the discretion of the newspaper publisher, and we will work directly with them as to how and where their content can be viewed. We want to explore ways to make the entire digital collection accessible to every library and school in the state of Iowa.

IAhistory will  enhance our ability to identify the individual needs of each community.  The ownership of printed newspapers will remain with the State Historical Society Of Iowa, but the materials will be relocated to our secure facility in Cedar Rapids.

Advantage will work with Iowa libraries and institutions to have the stored original newspapers put on microfilm at no charge to SHSI.  This will include sales, marketing and coordinating all logistics with local entities to fund preservation microfilming and getting publisher copyright approval.

The State has a “format neutral” policy regarding the preservation of the content, and therefore this policy has been adopted by Advantage for this ongoing project. The opinion held by Advantage Archives is that the most stable analog media is the preferred format for long term archiving of the collection, and the only widely accepted practice for newspaper preservation is 35mm silver gelatin microfilm stored properly in accordance to ANSI / AIIM standards.

The projects are at no cost to the State, and all financial risk falls on to Advantage. By allowing us to access the State’s collection, the current efforts of the community libraries in Iowa to preserve their newspaper history are accelerated. The additional benefit of this partnership is with the access to the physical materials we (Advantage and SHSI) are ensuring completeness of their archive with the best available image on both film and providing cost effective digital access.

Simultaneously, we will hopefully unify the independent efforts of the individual libraries across the state, other related (but not connected) newspaper projects, and previously produced film and digital projects.

In doing so, the most comprehensive and complete collection possible can be achieved. This consolidated collection can be shared by all libraries, publishers, schools, and the state agencies

Advantage makes no decisions on the final disposition of any of the State’s collection, and direction from the State will be required for any/all changes in the status of the collection. Our understanding is that some papers may return to the Historical Society storage if it is determined they have intrinsic historical value due to age, rareness, uniqueness or we need representation from an Iowa community in our collection and papers not kept for historic value will be re-homed to the local community. While Advantage will assist in any aspects of this process as requested by the State, we do not dictate or influence the decision-making process.

Key relationships such as the Association Of Iowa Museums, Department of Education, State Library, State Curator, local genealogical and historical societies, IPTV/IPR, and other respected Iowan’s with a connection to history, education, or cultural awareness will be consulted regularly in an effort to guide us, educate us, and collaborate with us in making the IAHistory website a valuable educational tool and help us further engage the community.

Our team has been pleased to provide services within Iowa for well over a decade at Advantage Archives, and as Advantage Preservation since 2011. We  are eager to advance our mission:  “Ensure the preservation and accessibility of the history contained within Iowa’s newspapers”. By collaborating with SHSI, libraries, schools, and newspaper publishers, we believe we can engage other like-minded Iowans to join us in our mission.


12 million pages of newspapers to be preserved State Historical Society of Iowa and Advantage Archives to microfilm and digitize state’s collection of newspapers

DES MOINES – The process to save the first draft of Iowa history just got a lot smoother.

The State Historical Society of Iowa today unveiled a sweeping new plan to preserve more than 12 million pages of newspapers in its collection, giving Iowans greater access to more than 300 titles dating to the state’s pioneer days in the 1830s.

Under the authority of the Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs, the State Historical Society has signed a 5-year contract to loan the newspapers to Advantage Archives, a Cedar Rapids business with a division dedicated to the preservation and digital access of historical newspapers. Advantage will take on the ambitious new project at no cost to the state, and ownership of the physical newspapers will remain with the State Historical Society.

Advantage and the State Historical Society have already partnered on several preservation projects since 2011. But the new agreement clears the way for Advantage technicians to increase and accelerate the preservation of newspapers dating back to 1837, all of which have been gathered from communities and publishers statewide.

Starting this spring, the newspapers stored at the State Historical Building in Des Moines will be transported to Advantage’s secure 80,000-square-foot records-management facility in Cedar Rapids. Technicians will first photograph the pages onto microfilm (which remains the gold standard for newspaper preservation) and then digitally scan the microfilm to provide wider access to the public. Advantage will take similar steps in the future with newspapers at the State Historical Society’s Centennial Building in Iowa City.

“Continuing to preserve Iowa’s fragile historical newspapers and increasing public access to the collection in a sustainable way have always been high priorities for the State Historical Society,” State Archivist Anthony Jahn said. “In our exhaustive efforts to develop the best solution, the importance of newspapers to every community statewide was top of mind and drove our work to position 180 years of historical newspapers for the benefit of all Iowans.”

Advantage Preservation, the division of the company that focuses on microfilming and digitizing newspapers, will continue to work with local publishers to negotiate copyrights. Content printed before 1924 is considered fair use; content published since then belongs to the publisher.

“As an Iowa company, Advantage is excited to take an even more active role in preserving Iowa newspapers,” Advantage Chief Operating Officer Jeffrey Kiley said. “We believe the preservation of our collective history is a shared responsibility, and we’re proud to continue our work with the state of Iowa to ensure that our ‘first draft of history’ is available for current and future generations.”

Advantage also plans to explore ways to make Iowa’s historical newspapers more accessible to Iowa students as a classroom resource.

The soon-to-be microfilmed and digitized newspapers will enhance the State Historical Society’s vast collection of previously microfilmed content, which currently comprises more than 24 million pages from more than 650 statewide titles on more than 44,000 rolls of microfilm.

Anyone can access the state’s newspaper collection, free of charge, by visiting the State Historical Society of Iowa Research Centers during the recently expanded hours of 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday at the State Historical Building, 600 E. Locust St. in Des Moines, and the Centennial Building, 402 Iowa Ave. in Iowa City.

Mary Cownie, Director

The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs and its three divisions – the State Historical Society of Iowa, the Iowa Arts Council and Produce Iowa, the State Office of Media Production – empower Iowa to build and sustain culturally vibrant communities by connecting Iowans to the people, places and points of pride that define our state. The department’s work enables Iowans to foster creativity and serves as a catalyst for innovation where the stories of Iowa are preserved and communicated to connect past, present and future generations.

The Advantage Companies, based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, consist of three divisions that share in the mission of preserving, protecting and providing digital access to printed documents. Advantage offers secure document storage, document conversion services, and historical document preservation solutions to organizations across the United States. Advantage Preservation is a division of Advantage Companies and focuses exclusively on newspaper collections. Newspapers are microfilmed and stored in accordance to ANSI/AIIM standards for long-term preservation. Digitization of newspaper microfilm is an enhancement to the preservation process and a means to unlock content that would otherwise be impractical to access.

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