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Bruton High School Virginia History Day (Spring 2024)

Digital Newspapers (Overview)

The William & Mary Libraries have a TON of digitized newspapers. How many?

How can we possibly have so many digitized historic newspapers?

There are four ways to find historic newspapers.

  1. Search for a specific historic newspaper in the Journals box on the library page.
  2. Use a specialized historic newspaper database like Chronicling America, ProQuest Historic Newspapers, America's Historical Newspapers, or any of the other ~150 options.
  3. Conduct a search in the main library catalog ("PRIMO") for your topic, then limit the results to "newspaper articles" and limit the publication date range.
  4. Conduct a search in ProQuest for your topic, then limit the results to "newspaper articles" and limit the publication date range.

The first is the least practical and only useful if you want a specific newpaper's opinion on a topic.
The second is a great way to narrow your search if we have a specific database on your topic (Ex. our American Prison Newspapers 1800-2020 would be of interest if your topic is incarceration)
The third and fourth options can be useful as a starting point, but bring up a Lot of results. It also omits small newspapers, like those in Chronicling America.


  • Do NOT search a bunch of terms. This will give more, not less, false its.
  • Pick keywords carefully -- remember that words and their meaning change over time
    • Example. If you're interested in depictions of Gender in newspapers, the word "gender" won't work -- it meant something else. Try masculinity or femininity. Similarly, the Civil War was not called the Civil War, the same way the "Seven Years War" wasn't called that as it was happening.
  • Use the database limiting tools (publication date, place of publication, etc) to limit results. Do this instead of adding more search terms. 
  • Use boolean (and or not) to make the best searches.

Use AND OR NOT / BOOLEAN to search these databases. Consult Boolean tab

Using PRIMO and ProQuest

These are very, very broad databases that including material from some (not all) of our ~150 newspaper databases.

Search for your topic, then limit the publication date to your period of interest.
Then limit your search results to newspaper articles.

Note that using the specialized databases below may be a good way to narrow your search if you aren't finding what you need.

Key Newspaper Databases For this class.