The Odyssey of the Greeks of America, the long and rough struggle for survival of hundreds of thousands of Greek immigrants and refugees and their incorporation into the mosaic of the peoples who make up the American Nation and also their solidarity with their motherland is one of their lesser known historical chapters of Hellenism.
This is mainly due to the fact that there is no complete archive of the History of the Greek-American community available to the public and the researchers.
The most important effort to record the history of the Greek-American Community was made by Professor Theodore Salutos (The Greeks in the United States), published in 1964, and a second, but less worthwhile effort, by Bambis Malafouris, who volume stops in 1948. (Our own Steve Frangos does great, original work in the history of the community, for this newspaper.)
This historical gap, the lack of a complete archive covering the period of the history of the Greek-American Community, at least a century long, will now be finally filled by the digitization of Eθνικός Κήρυξ, The National Herald’s archive thanks to a generous grant by the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
The history of Hellenism in this country has been printed on the pages of The National Herald from the day of its foundation, April 2, 1915, until today. It’s a volume that consists of at least one million pages!
The quest for the digitization of The National Herald archive began actively about five years ago, when we were making our preparations for celebrating the 100th anniversary of the founding of the newspaper.
It was then, while we were searching our archives, and being aware of the possibilities offered by the new technology, that we fully realized the historical need and personal responsibility towards the Community and to History to find and digitize the newspaper’s archive.
However, three major problems had to be overcome:
First, find all the editions. Unfortunately, the previous publishers had not to transfered, for some reason, their volumes to their successors.
Second, find the right company that specializes in this kind of work. Investigating the issue, we found out that there are very few companies doing this kind of work and none were Greek.
And third, to secure the funding. We had calculated that our archive consists of at least one million pages. This is a huge volume of work that exceeds the economic capabilities of the newspaper.
As far as the first point, that of locating the newspaper archive, we found it was scattered in different places.
I only inherited a part of it when I bought the newspaper in 1979. Since then, we have maintained the records in hard cover volumes in our offices in New York and Athens, and in addition we have turned it into microfilm.
We discovered that the records prior to my years were scattered between the central branch of the New York Public Library – on 42 Street and 5th Avenue in Manhattan, the Library of Congress, and the libraries of two Universities outside of New York.
Again, each of them covered only a few years and there were about 20 years missing. None had the complete archive.
Eventually, the solution came miraculously from where we did not expect it and it was in the most appropriate form in terms of technological requirements: From the Library of the Hellenic Parliament, which has the most complete records of The National Herald. Not only does it have the overwhelming percentage of our editions – relatively few pages are missing, here and there, mainly in the early years – but they were also in the form of microfilm, the form in which we need them to be.
It is much easier – and less costly – to digitize a page that is on microfilm rather than a page that is on paper, especially when the paper is decades old.
It was really a gift of God, from where we never imagined. A gift for which I express my gratitude to the Library of the Hellenic Parliament and its courteous staff that was eager to help.
As far as the second point, finding the right company to do the job, we discovered – after a long process – that these are few and some not particularly credible.
And it was particularly unhelpful that the records are in Greek and that a part of the material needs to be converted from paper to digital form.
Finally, this solution came from Greece also: I noticed that the authoritative newspaper Kathimerini was probably the only one that had digitized its archive, so I asked my old colleague and distinguished Editor of Kathimerini, Alexis Papahelas, to give me the name of the company they worked with.
It’s a Colorado-based company.
After the company examined samples of our archives, it submitted to us a report that included technical matters as well as an estimate of the cost of the project. The price exceeds $ 600,000.
This is, of course, an amount beyond our financial means.
I had to look for external financing.
It had to be an Institution that not only has the resources but also the sensitivity required to properly assess and appreciate the value of this work today and for future generations.
And that could be no other than the Stavros Niarchos Foundation.
This was the second time I requested funding from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation for a project.
The first time was to fund the book The Greeks – The Historical Journey of the Greeks – which The National Herald published in 2001 and made available free of charge. We re-issued it in 2002 because of the high demand for it.
It is no coincidence that the Stavros Niarchos Foundation has been embraced as no other Greek Philanthropic Institution has. It has gained an international reputation, and recognition as a model philanthropic institution for its professional and meritocratic way of functioning, with full transparency in all its activities, and for the vision and dynamism of its leader – its Co-President.
It is these principles that have made it the most important and respected foundation in Greek History.
Going through the long process the application required , and after the project was presented and analyzed in its entirety –documented almost line by line – and since also the representative of the Foundation that handled our application came into direct and exhaustive contact with the company which we had proposed for the project, it was then submitted to the Foundation’s Board of Directors that met last week.
The proposal was approved and was provided funding in the amount of $ 480,000, as much as we had ultimately requested, to complete the project within one year.
Upon completion, the archive will be available on the websites of The National Herald – Greek and English – with the prominently displayed acknowledgement that this was made possible thanks to the generosity of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. Any one who is interested will have absolutely free access to the public.
We will also be happy to offer it for posting to any reputable website that requests it.
How it works
The archive will use the latest technology. The entire database will be searchable using a keyword and displayed in color on all the pages on which that word can be found.
For example, if I type the word “Diamataris”, the system will search the entire database and show me, in color, every instance of my name.
Thus, thanks to the generosity of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, the History of the Community will be preserved in perpetuity.
I therefore express my gratitude to the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and especially to its Co-President, Mr. Andreas Dracopoulos, for the financing of this project.
Finally, I appeal to anyone who has old copies of the National Herald, as well as the rare beautiful and valuable Monthly Illustrated National Herald to communicate with us at 718-784-5255 or [email protected].