What‘s next for Lithuanian press in the diaspora?
The internet continues to diminish the role of print media throughout the world, and the ethnic press is no exception. In July 2020, the Lithuanian Canadian weekly newspaper Tėviškės žiburiai (The Lights of Homeland) was forced to discontinue publication due to lack of resources and the decline of faithful readers providing constant financial support. The newspaper celebrated 70 years of publishing in 2019 before heading to a fully online presence at www.tevzib.com in July, 2020. One of the tasks ensuing from the transition was to create an archive of the physical copies of Tėviškės žiburiai, and today the entire 70 years of life in the Lithuanian Canadian community is housed at the Lithuanian Canadian Museum-Archives in Mississauga.
But how can we access this historic treasure, short of poring through boxes of crumbling newsprint? The wondrous power of the internet once again opens worlds of knowledge.
Last year, the Martynas Mažvydas National Library of Lithuania launched a comprehensive virtual exhibition about the post-1990 Lithuanian press in the diaspora, which features Tėviškės žiburiai as well. The virtual exhibit is now available on their website https://www.lnb.lt in English as well as Lithuanian. The National Library also has an extensive data-base of the actual newspapers at www.epaveldas.lt, which was launched about 10 years ago, and is currently being updated for use in June of this year.
The Lithuanian Research and Studies Center in Chicago, USA, is the largest scholarly archive and book publisher outside of Lithuania, and has undertaken compiling a fully searchable data-base of the archives of all Lithuanian newspapers in the diaspora. With files from the National Library in Lithuania, the project is well underway, due to the efforts of project manager Dr. Jonas Daugirdas of Chicago.
The process is meticulous and time-consuming. In the case of Tėviškės žiburiai, checking and cross-checking digital files for accuracy and quality is being performed since February. Results show that many issues were never digitized, or were scanned imperfectly, requiring retrieval of those issues from the archives at the Lithuanian Canadian Museum-Archives, for rescanning and rephotographing.
The Board of Publishers (the Lithuanian Canadian Cultural Society Žiburiai) of Tėviškės žiburiai continues to oversee the website www.tevzib.com. It is also responsible for the archiving of the original newspaper, and therefore is the virtual owner of the data base being created by the Research and Studies Center. The minimal cost of the creation of the Tėviškės žiburiai data base is calculated at $14,000, which the Board is unable to provide at this time. A donation campaign was considered, but rejected due to the Board‘s status as a non-profit corporation without the right to issue income tax receipts.
Tėviškės žiburiai and the subsequent Lithuanian-Canadian news website tevzib.com, like many Lithuanian cultural organizations in Canada, owe their continued existence to the Lithuanian Canadian Foundation for annual support. Our Board, as well as our readership, are deeply grateful to the Foundation for the first donation of $5,000 toward the archival data-base project. It will certainly be the pre-eminent resource for Lithuanian Canadian posterity, for research, and for the history of our community.