LEWISTON — They may be in a basement or attic or perhaps in an old box.

Adam Fisher, the director of collections development at the Maine State Library, is asking residents, especially in the Lewiston-Auburn area, to keep an eye out for French-language newspapers published in Maine that might be stored away with other family heirlooms.

The newspapers may help fill some important gaps in an upcoming project to digitize and thus preserve historical newspapers that captured news and opinion pertaining to Maine’s Franco communities.

In the Lewiston-Auburn area, there were at least nine such publications, with names like Le Messager (The Messenger), Verité (Truth) and Le Signal (The Signal), to name a few. The project is particularly interested in Le Messager, which was published between 1880 and 1968. Fisher said the Maine State Library has a significant collection of this paper and the Franco-American Collection of the University of Maine also has extensive holdings.

“It appears that there are a few gaps in that run that we will need to fill,” Fisher wrote in an email. “Hopefully, we can identify individuals who might have some of the missing issues that we will need to scan.”

In all, project researchers have identified at least 38 French-language newspaper titles that were published in Maine from 1870 to the 1970s. But only 16 of those publications have been found in libraries, historical societies, museums or personal collections. Those newspapers that have been located are in varied conditions and few are available in digital format.


Digital copies of Le Messager Submitted photos

Jacob Albert, a librarian archivist who’s been involved in the digital project for three years, had high praise for the work with the Franco American Programs at the University of Maine. Albert said the project is all about preserving the unique French connection to communities across New England.

“It illuminates connections between the French speaking communities that were not covered by the English papers,” he said Thursday. Sadly, he said, about half of the French-language papers published in New England are gone forever. There simply are no copies to be found.

The project will borrow copies that may have sentimental or historic value to individuals so they can digitize them and return them to the owner, or owners can donate their collections, large or small.

“Our last hope is that someone may have copies squirreled away in the back of a closet or in an attic,” Fisher said, “and would be willing to loan them to us so that we can take images of the pages for the purposes of digitization and preservation.”

The digitization project is supported with funding from the National Digital Newspaper Program of the National Endowment for the Humanities. All of the pages digitized will become part of the Library of Congress Chronicling America historical newspaper portal at chroniclingamerica.loc.gov.

For more information about the Maine State Library’s newspaper digitization activities, visit maine.gov/msl/newspapers or call the library at 207-287-5600.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.