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Don’t forget Clipping Files

When a historical perspective is needed, often times a trip to the library is necessary. Many libraries offer “clipping files” which is a file of older news stories pertaining to a particular topic. Libraries also provide access to older newspapers on microfiche/microfilm or searchable databases. The librarians at public and academic libraries can offer you many suggestions when doing this type of research. The Wisconsin or local historical societies are also great choices. Online options include, but not limited to, Google News Archive and Newspaper Archive (which is fee based). However, the advantage of a clipping file is that all the articles on a subject are in a single location.

The Wisconsin Legislative Reference Bureau Library maintains a clipping file of over 1500 subject areas. They also have “a biography index listing names of prominent Wisconsinites who are mentioned among the Clippings articles.”

Milwaukee Public Library has an extensive clipping file. In the past, a call the Humanities Department was necessary for a researcher to determine if MPL had a clipping file on a topic. A recent posting on “Now @ MPL” (link) indicates that the Milwaukee History Clipping Index is now available online. The post describes the clipping index as a “subject listing of people, places, events, etc. represented in newspaper articles that were clipped from Milwaukee area newspapers published mainly in the middle to late 20th century.”

This finding tool searches the index, not the actual newspaper articles. If the library has a clipping file on subject of interest, a visit to the Central Library is necessary to review the contents. The depth of topics found in the index is amazing. For example, a search of the term “Menomonee” resulted in the following list of subjects:


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