The Little Cowpuncher Web site is the result of an inspiration by Tucson author and illustrator Joan Sandin. While doing research for Coyote School News, a children's book set in southern Arizona in the 1930's, Sandin came across one of the few surviving collections of The Little Cowpuncher in the University of Arizona Library's Special Collections. She was immediately taken by the richness, humor, and charm of the rural school newspaper. Created at five different southern Arizona K-8 schools from 1932 to 1943 by Anglo and Mexican-American students of Eulalia Bourne, Little Cowpuncher included original and unedited stories and drawings of ranch and school life. Such a treasure deserved a larger audience. But how could this collection of mimeographed newspapers, yellowed, torn and brittle with age, reach a larger public without further deterioration? At that time the Library had no plans for its preservation.
In December 1999, Sandin contacted Stuart Glogoff, then Assistant Dean, Library Information Systems and the developer of the UA Libraries' "Images of the Southwest" and "Through Our Parents' Eyes" online exhibits. Together they brainstormed ways to make Little Cowpuncher available to a greater public without destroying it as an artifact, agreeing on the idea of a Web site to exhibit and interpret the unique collection. In January 2000, Sandin and Glogoff submitted a proposal to the Arizona Humanities Council for a modest grant to help fund the creation of such a site. Their plan was to exhibit all available years of the newspaper online, in addition to location maps and photographs, Spanish translations and links. Sandin would provide background notes about the five schools, the teacher, and the history of the area (the latter to be written in consultation with western historian Alex Kimmelman, Pima Community College.) In March 2000 the Arizona Humanities Council awarded a grant for the project but, because of unforeseen delays (see Additional Note below), work couldn't begin until the summer of 2000.
The huge task of creating the digitized version of the newspaper was given to the DLIG (Digital Library Initiative Group) and proved to be both difficult and labor-intensive. In the beginning the team worked from photocopies to avoid handling the originals. Many of the pages were of such poor quality that optical character recognition scanning would not have given a legible result. This meant every page had to be transcribed and marked up in HTML. The drawings presented another problem. Different methods were tried for digitizing them and for placing them in the appropriate page location relative to the text; the results were not always satisfactory.
We should mention that no editing was done with the content of any of the stories or drawings; neither was there any attempt to censor words or ideas that appeared in the newspapers.
A host of U of A Library staff was involved in The Little Cowpuncher project. The first was Jeanie Darnall, who worked on it from August 2000 through January 2001. She and her student team was responsible for the page design and the decorative icons, created by copying and coloring drawings that originally appeared in The Little Cowpuncher. After Darnall left the project, Bobbie Atchison oversaw it's development.
In May of 2001 Eulalia Roël, Digital Projects and Copyright Librarian, joined the project, first assisted by Atchison and later by Adam Engelsgjerd. Roël's ambition was to replicate the original Little Cowpuncher as closely as possible: a painstaking and demanding undertaking. By using CSS (Cascading Style Sheets) she has been able to accomplish this. The drawings were re-scanned to exist as access images to the content, reflecting their size and location in the original documents. (The clarity of the images echo the clarity - or lack of it - of the original drawings.) In addition, Roël converted the mark-up code of the content to XHTML, abiding strictly by the XHTML DTD, making its quality more archival and ensuring its future Web accessibility. Page design was not done via an HTML editor, but by hand. Spelling errors, spacing and page layout of the original newspapers have been retained. Readers will see a page that looks very much like the original. They may also find entries that seem to be typos. In most cases, these will actually be errors that have been faithfully reproduced from the original artifact. However, because all content had to be retyped, there may be typing errors in the Web version. For that reason, we ask readers to report anything they notice to our email link. When doing so, please copy/paste the Web address (URL) into the message. (There are over 400 discrete pages, electronic files, and it would be like finding a needle in a haystack without the page address.)
We would also be most grateful for any additional information about any of The Little Cowpuncher schools or former Little Cowpuncher students, as we will be expanding and enhancing this Web exhibit in the Fall of 2002.
In the Spring of 2000, staff at the UA Libraries' Special Collections sent its copy of The Little Cowpuncher to a conservation service for preservation. Although the absence of the original newspapers delayed the start of the digital project by several months we applauded this important initiative. Having both a digital version and a conserved copy of the original means that thousands of students, faculty, researchers, and the general public can enjoy The Little Cowpuncher online or in the Special Collections room at the University of Arizona Library without endangering this unique document.
Questions and comments about this site may be directed to Special Collections.
Substantial content and support was provided by the Arizona Historical Society.
Partial funding for this project was received from the Arizona Humanities Council.
Copyright © 2000