Preserving History: TAMUC Student Helps Keep The East Texan Alive

Jackson Thornton, a senior Computer Science major at A&M-Commerce, is helping preserve the university's rich history. Since August, he has interned in the Archives Department, located on campus in Waters Library. His role is to digitize The East Texan, A&M-Commerce's former student newspaper, so readers worldwide can access it digitally.

The East Texan was the university's official student newspaper for an astounding 106 years, from 1915 to 2021. The publication is important because it not only captures over a century of campus life and university history but also includes articles written about major historical events from the perspective of university students.

Although the Archives houses many physical copies of the newspaper, only a few recent issues were available to browse online. If anyone wanted to read an article from an old copy of The East Texan, they had to visit the Archives office in person and request to see the document. They couldn’t take it with them for sharing or further study.

But now, thanks to Thornton’s hard work, things are changing. Many editions of The East Texan can be viewed and downloaded worldwide. The online editions are also full-text searchable.

Thornton’s job is more complex than simply running a paper through a scanner. He must follow a process that includes converting microfilm to digital versions, writing metadata for each issue, combining the metadata with the files, and finally uploading everything to the digital platform. Throughout this process, Thornton must utilize various programs like Adobe Acrobat, Photoshop and PowerShell.

Thornton got involved in this project as an intern through the Honors College in August.

“While I thought that studying abroad or writing a thesis might have been good choices for my Honors College project, I chose to apply for the internship program because I felt it would be a great way to gain valuable experience and skills that would help me in my future career in computer science,” Thornton said.

In the four months since he’s worked at the Archives, Thornton has helped with the digitization of over 500 issues. He feels proud to be a part of such an important project and to help people around the globe access important historical documents.

“It’s exciting to see that this work has been accessed in countries worldwide, in places like France, India, Iran, South Korea, Australia and Venezuela,” Thornton said.

Thornton also expressed that working so closely with the aged editions helps him feel like history is coming to life right before his eyes.

“Seeing information about major events like the Vietnam War and JFK's assassination, and even various advertisements of the day is almost like stepping into a time capsule!” Thornton exclaimed.

Thornton presenting his work at the reception held in his honor, December 3, 2023

Recently, the Archives hired him to stay on as a student worker when his internship ended. He was honored at a reception on Monday, December 4, where he presented some of his work on The East Texan project.

“I am very grateful that I can continue as a student worker, and I look forward to making great progress towards our department's goals of digitizing and archiving all issues of The East Texan,” Thornton said. “I hope to continue to gain valuable experience that will help me in my future career.”

Check out the Digital Commons to view digital copies of The East Texan.