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Mayor Craig Moe test drives the Laurel Museum's digital archive of the Laurel Leader, unveiled at the museum Wednesday, Sept. 17.
Mayor Craig Moe test drives the Laurel Museum's digital archive of the Laurel Leader, unveiled at the museum Wednesday, Sept. 17. (Photo courtesy of Laurel Historical)

More than a century of Laurel Leader newspapers — from 1897 to 2008 — are now digitized and available for researchers at the Laurel Museum.

Museum Director Lindsey Baker and Laurel Historical Society volunteers unveiled the new collection in the museum's John Calder Brennan Research Library on Sept. 17, 117 years to the day since the Leader's first issue.

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Before the digitized collection at the museum, archival copies of the Laurel Leader were only available on microfilm at the Enoch Pratt Library in Baltimore, the Maryland State Archives in Annapolis and the Stanley Memorial Library in Laurel.

The museum's collection began in 2013 when county library officials donated 168 microfilm rolls of the archived Laurel Leaders before the Stanley Memorial Library closed for reconstruction. Baker said the difficulty of using microfilm readers led to a decision to have the donated microfilm digitized. Funds for the project came in part from the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.

"We are very thankful for the funding that made this new research available to the public in such a user-friendly format," Baker said.

The museum's library also has archival copies of Laurel Leader newspapers from April 1946 to January 1981 in 58 hardbound volumes.

Researchers can view the Laurel Leaders on a dedicated computer at the museum's library, and Laurel Historical Society volunteers are continuing to convert the digital archival copies to searchable PDFs.

The John Calder Brennan Research Library is open weekdays; appointments are required. Call 301-725-7975.

The museum's 2015 exhibit, "Ripped from the Headlines," will highlight its collection of archival Laurel Leaders and feature stories from Laurel's past that caught the attention of local media.

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