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Nearly 1,700 issues of the Wilson College student newspaper are now online and searchable. A grant has allowed the college to digitize the papers and make them available to researchers on and off campus.

An early edition of The Billboard ─ the first to have a masthead ─ from January 1921.
An early edition of The Billboard ─ the first to have a masthead ─ from January 1921.

Access the digitalized editions of The Billboard, which date to 1921, by going online to, where icons representing the newspaper’s front pages are displayed. Click on “Search within results” next to the search bar, where a topic can be entered. On the left, to search a range of years, click on “CE” when entering both the start and end dates.

Digitizing the collection of student newspapers enhances its value as a historical record by making it searchable. Information contained within the papers is easier to tap by anyone researching a variety of topics. Those include gender and social issues to national and world affairs.

Wilson was able to digitize its archived collection of Billboards using a $6,000 grant from the Council of Independent Colleges. The CIC grant was made possible by a contribution from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Billboard: Recording Student Life, Culture

The newspapers provide a valuable record of not only student life at Wilson over the years but also popular culture and the events of the time in general. It’s all seen through the lens of the former women’s college students, according to  Amy Ensley, director of Wilson’s Hankey Center. The center houses and manages the college’s C. Elizabeth Boyd ’33 Archives.

Eisley said the public may not think of Wilson as the center of discourse on world affairs, but it has always been at the center of national and political debate on very important women’s issues. Those include reproductive rights, sex discrimination and the equal rights movement, as well as the role of women in the workforce, the armed services and government.

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The process of scanning and digitizing the Billboards, then making them searchable and publishing them, took months. It began in early 2019 when Wilson hired an outside firm to scan the college’s collection of printed student newspapers, said Wilson Archivist Kieran McGhee, who oversaw the project.

The most time-consuming part of the project was cataloging the issues after they were scanned.

Now that the Billboards are online and available for research, Ensley and McGhee expect them to be widely used. They will provide a valuable tool for Wilson students for research assignments. Alumni can research topics or revisit their time at the college. Anyone researching topics such as local history, women’s issues, popular culture and a variety of historical events can use them.

Once published weekly, The Billboard today is published every three weeks.

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