Alex Japha

Alex Japha, the digital archivist for Special Collections, recently finished digitizing more than 100 years worth of Lehigh Bulletin magazines.

Going Digital: Digitizing over 100 years of the Lehigh Bulletin

More than 100 years of the Lehigh Bulletin are now available online thanks to preservation efforts from Lehigh Libraries Special Collections.

Story by

Christina Tatu

Photography by

Christa Neu

It was a prophetic moment when Alex Japha came across an article in the fall 1996 edition of the Lehigh Bulletin about the importance of preserving the university’s print and digital materials, including creating a lasting record of them on the internet.

Japha spotted it as he was reviewing digitized copies of the alumni magazine that he and a group of work-study students finished scanning last year, immortalizing more than 100 years of the Bulletin in Lehigh’s digital repository.

The article was written just three years after the World Wide Web became public domain, and 20 years before Japha, the digital archivist for Special Collections, started his career with Lehigh Libraries.

“Without preserving our past, we have no future,” says the article titled “A Race Against Time.”

The effort to finish digitizing more than 100 years worth of Bulletin magazines is one of the library system’s latest preservation efforts. Published by the Lehigh University Alumni Association since 1913, the Bulletin is released three times per year and distributed to 75,000 alumni around the country. It is read by many more alumni, staff and students online.

“We know they are very much in demand, very useful and have very rich content,” Japha said. “Other than the The Brown and White student newspaper, it’s the best place to get university history or information about the people who attended here.”

Issues from 1913 to 1950 were digitized beginning in 2009 and uploaded in 2011 to the library’s collection in the Internet Archive, but the time and staff the project required delayed continuing.

Archive and Special Collections Librarian Ilhan Citak noted that other essential historical resources like Epitome yearbooks and course catalogs were also digitized and uploaded alongside the Bulletins. Japha and a group of 15 work-study students picked the project up again in August 2020 and finished scanning the next 70 years of Bulletin issues in November 2021.

We know they are very much in demand, very useful and have very rich content...Other than the The Brown and White student newspaper, it’s the best place to get university history or information about the people who attended here.

Alex Japha

“Our undergraduate work-study students do most of the physical scanning and metadata creation,” Japha explained. “We have four overhead scanners, which is important to make sure the book lies open and flat so you don’t crush anything.”

Japha was responsible for quality control and uploading. Issues can be searched by key phrases and downloaded as plain text.

The Alumni Association created the Bulletin under the editorship of Raymond W. Walters, Class of 1907. It started as a “newsy” 12-page pamphlet containing information about noteworthy things happening at Lehigh, such as statistics on how the football and other sports teams were doing. It also had a class column which stated how many men were attending college (Lehigh’s first women students were admitted in 1971). In 1926, the publication expanded its dimensions and added images to the pamphlet. Color was first used in 1937.

Today its class columns are rich with updates on alumni, and its pages are filled with stories that focus on campus events and initiatives, research, culture, athletics and alumni profiles.

In total, Japha said 655 issues have been digitized dating back to 1913. The frequency of issues has changed. At one time, there were nine editions of the Bulletin printed each year. Now there are three.

“The advertisements are a great snapshot in time,” Japha said.

For example, the May 1952 issue featured an advertisement from Republic Steel that harkened back to the Cold War era.

“Praise the Lord, we’re still free people over here. We can still choose our own churches, our own friends, our own jobs (like mine at Republic) and our own political parties,” the ad says. “We can praise our government for wise decisions or criticize it for reckless spending of taxpayers’ hard-earned dollars…without fear of secret police or concentration camps.”

In addition to preserving the Bulletin, the libraries are also able to preserve university websites in their entirety, including the web version of the Bulletin. There’s also a project underway to digitize the speeches of famed alum and American automobile executive Lee Iacocca ‘45.

After reading the 1996 Bulletin article, Japha is confident that the modern Lehigh Libraries are successfully accomplishing what was previously considered a monumental, if not impossible task.

“The scale of digital collections is always growing, but new tools and technologies have consistently been developed to help keep up with the ever-expanding universe of electronic files,” he said. “We now have hundreds of thousands of digital files, accounting for multiple terabytes of data, safely stored and accessible to the public.”

Alumni remain the greatest asset to preserving Lehigh’s history, Japha said. Those who think they may have material of interest to the library, such as Lehigh memorabilia or rare book collections, are welcome to email

Story by

Christina Tatu

Photography by

Christa Neu

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