Junior Joshua Schmid is one of a handful of vol­un­teers who dig­itize old edi­tions of The Reading Hustler, a weekly news­paper dating from 1891 – 1953. Jo Kroeker | Col­legian

Not everyone in Mossey Library this week is stum­bling through hell week.

A handful of GOAL vol­un­teers devote an hour a week each to dig­i­tizing the 23 micro­films housing old edi­tions of The Reading Hustler, a weekly news­paper, dating from 1891 to about 1953. They are led by Debbie Reister, a member of the Mitchell Research Center since 2009 and the house­di­rector of Kappa Kappa Gamma since 2013.

“It’s a really great oppor­tunity to interact with these old news­papers as a history major,” junior Joshua Schmid said. “I def­i­nitely plan on con­tinuing to do it next year, and if there are any other people, history majors, I highly suggest it to them as well, or just to anyone who’s inter­ested in genealogy.”

According to GOAL Program Leader senior Alexis Garcia, the archiving effort isn’t quite a GOAL program because it would need a bigger scope, more potential for growth, and more stu­dents involved. It does, however, fall under the GOAL umbrella because the program essen­tially handles all vol­unteer oppor­tu­nities.

The Mitchell Research Center is a vol­unteer genealogical research center. When Reister and the other vol­un­teers received the films, they looked for a dig­i­ti­zation machine to convert the micro­films — 50- or 60-year-old tech­nology starting to show signs of wear and tear — to digital files and pre­serve them for future researchers.

But there was a problem: a dig­i­ti­zation machine costs $12,000, Reister said, which was too much for the vol­unteer group. The vendor of these machines, however, pointed Reister to the college’s library. After working with the Hillsdale College Archivist Linda Moore and con­tacting Garcia, the Mitchell Research Center secured use of the microfilm reader and dig­i­tizer as well as student vol­un­teers.

“We’re a vol­unteer orga­ni­zation, so that’s why it was so kind of the college to com­mu­nicate with the com­munity to let us do this,” Reister said. “It was kind of a nice con­nection to help people.”

Reister said the dig­i­ti­zation process is time-con­suming because the pages need cor­recting, whether it’s adjusting brightness or straight­ening them.

Occa­sionally, vol­un­teers can find the hand of whoever spent their time con­verting old news­papers into micro­films a half-century ago.

“It was a little eerie seeing the image of that hand,” Schmid said.

For Reister, it’s also fun to read the pages as she puts them in the com­puter. She said she’s excited for upcoming ses­sions because she has just reached the World War I years of the news­paper.

“It’s very inter­esting to see how people treated each other the same way we treat people now,” Reister said. “We think about mass media as not having been before the phone, but they used news­papers to com­mu­nicate who was in town. It was a weekly thing, it was a little bit less timely.”

Most people looking up infor­mation about their fam­ilies rely on birth and wedding announce­ments and obit­u­aries in papers. They are also dig­i­tizing wills and divorce cer­tifi­cates.

“We do whatever we can do for them to help them track back their fam­ilies,” Reister said.

Reister said people from as far away as Wis­consin come to the Mitchell Research Center because they had family in the county. Also, many people who come in are seeking to provide proof their lin­eages go back to people on the Mayflower or in the American Rev­o­lution so they can be a part of Daughters of the American Rev­o­lution or the Mayflower groups.

For Reister, this kind of project is not just an inter­esting way to step back in time, but it’s also in her blood.

“My great-grand­mother was a founding member of the Daughters of the American Rev­o­lution in Lenawee County,” Reister said. “My mother has cup­boards and cup­boards of records. And I keep coming back to it.”