Kickstarting a NOLA Newspaper Preservation Effort

Courtesy of NOLA DNA

Vintage copies of the New Orleans Times-Picayune, stored in individual tubes.

Five years ago, Joseph Makkos made a splash with an essay in the Atlantic about how he acquired a sizable collection of vintage New Orleans newspapers for free through a Craigslist ad. He created a company called NOLA DNA, arranged for storage of the collection (kept by the previous owner in 30,000 airtight tubes), and began working on how best to save and showcase its content.

I’ve been following this story ever since, writing about Makkos, his discovery, and subsequent projects in our spring 2018 issue and in the paperback edition of my book, Rare Books Uncovered. Which is also why I didn’t hesitate to support (full disclosure!) his new Kickstarter campaign to scan, convert, and share this historic archive.

The month-long campaign hopes to raise $20,000 toward this goal. Makkos posted it just a few days ago, writing: “As the Times-Picayune will publish its final issue on June 30, 2019, we are reminded that the storied era of paper publishing is drawing to a close. Without proper preservation and digitization, the publications that have been generated over the last 150 years will be, quite literally, left in the dust … Let's not let that happen to this collection!”

Once in the care of the British Library, this collection of NOLA papers, c. 1888-1929, was auctioned off to the highest bidder back in 1999, much to the dismay of writer Nicholson Baker, who chronicled his efforts to buy them and many others in the 2001 book, Double Fold. The anonymous winning bidder of this collection tried to sell them off piecemeal but gave up, which is how Makkos came into the picture.

What started off as a lark has become one man’s life's work — and it’s important work that ought to be supported. To do so, click here.