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MUNSTER | The Indiana Bicentennial Commission has recognized The Times Media Co.'s efforts to digitize its microfilm archives as part of the state's historic preservation efforts.

"I know this project will make an impact and be a great contribution to Indiana's legacy," Perry Hammock, executive director of the Indiana Bicentennial Commission, said in a Jan. 29 letter announcing the endorsement.

"The Commission and its partners appreciate the work that your group is undertaking to celebrate Indiana's proud history and the collaboration you are forging to ignite our state's future for the next 100 years."

The project is the first endorsed in Lake County by the commission, Hammock said.

The endorsement follows an application submitted by Times Librarian Patricia Kincaid, who has managed The Times' microfilm archives for the past decade. Kincaid began working in early 2014 with Indiana State Library staff on efforts to preserve the newspaper's microfilm archives, which date back to 1906 when the publication was called The Lake County Times.

"Converting The Times microfilm to a digital format is like creating a valued scrapbook, a scrapbook of Northwest Indiana's communities, sports and culture," Kincaid said. "Our project is underway and will continue throughout the bicentennial (in 2016) and beyond."

Kincaid said the digital format will make pages available from 1906 to the present, and those from Valparaiso's Vidette-Messenger from the 1860s to 1995. The archives will be keyword-searchable and available to the public, she said.

As the project unrolls, a direct link to the digitized microfilm will be available online via The Times Media Co.'s website at nwi.com, Kincaid said.

"We're pleased that our digitizing archives initiative has been recognized as an Indiana Bicentennial Legacy Project," Times Editor Bob Heisse said.

"Through this work, the history of Northwest Indiana will be easily available to our readers and readers throughout Indiana and beyond. This will offer wonderful opportunities, in particular, for teachers and students to learn about the past."

The Bicentennial Commission's endorsement does not include any grant funds, but Kincaid hopes the nod will help garner additional funding.

"Merrillville/Ross Township Historical Society has agreed to be our partner in gathering funds as they have a designated (nonprofit) status," Kincaid said.

The Times is also partnering with the Porter County Library System to apply for two Library Service and Technology Act grants, including a technology grant and an Indiana Memory Digitization grant, she said.

Other supporters of the project include Valparaiso University, Indiana State Library, Hoosier State Press Association, Indiana Humanities, Lake County Public Library, Porter County Library System, Hammond Public Library, Calumet Regional Archives and the genealogy department of the Porter County Library System.

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