Introducing Reveal Digital’s New Underground Press Digital Platform

For the past five years, I’ve been writing a lot about Independent Voices, Reveal Digital’s keyword-searchable digital collection of underground, alternative, and literary newspapers and magazines from the fifties through the eighties (primarily sixties and seventies but significant overlap in both directions). I’ve teased interested readers by listing new titles as I obtained permission to include them in the collection. I’ve called out libraries as they’ve joined our growing team of sourcing libraries. I’ve reprinted talks that I’ve given at academic and political conferences and celebrations about the underground press and the digital collection.

It’s been a real ride.

And now, it is my pleasure to share with you Independent Voices’ new, more robust, more dynamic, more attractive, more functional platform for your enjoyment, your inspiration, and your education. [Note: Any fuzziness and blurriness that you see in the blog entry images below are factors of my attempts to reduce screen shots to fit blog space; when you visit the actual website you will see text and images that are crisp and clear.]

Feast your eyes.

We’ll begin with the Home page.


The icon on the left is from a cover of Big Mama Rag, a feminist paper from Denver, Colorado, that published from 1972 to 1984, one of the nearly 120 feminist and lesbian papers that will be available in Independent Voices by the time we are finished uploading content sometime around January 2017. Every time you log on, you’ll get a different cover from among our over 1,000 titles that you’ll be able to access.

In the middle of the page is a brief overview of the collection and on the right, if you’re already familiar with the site and want to start searching, is our Search button. But hold on for a minute if this is your first visit. Let me take you through the rest of the site before you start your search.

The second tab is our Search tab.


Oh, the searches you can do, and the tricks that you can perform to make your search easier.

This brief blog entry isn’t a complete tutorial so I’m not going to hold your hand and take you step by step through every feature. Instead, I’ll refer you to the Help tab (see below).


Here you will learn how to do simple keyword searches, exact phrase searches, and Boolean searches, as well as how to apply filters to refine them. You will learn how to search over one or multiple publications, within date ranges, and within full text, comments, and tags. You will learn how to choose the number of search results you want displayed on each page, and determine whether you would like text or image previews displayed with your search results. Wildcard searches? Fuzzy searching? Optical character recognition? Proximity searching? The fun is just beginning.

The next tab, Titles, is my favorite because it is such a vast improvement over our earlier site. In our earlier site, you had no idea what the full range of uploaded titles was, so you could enter a title and not know if it would even come up. Now we present to you an alphabetical listing of our titles—but note that these are only the titles that have been uploaded. The scanning and digitizing process is still in full action mode and isn’t slated to be finished until the end of January 2017. New titles are being uploaded regularly.


This above screenshot shows titles that begin with A. In addition, a number of titles from our collection of GI underground papers began with numbers so those appear above the A’s. Notice that the titles all have locks after them except for one that appears in red. The vision of Independent Voices is that it will be an open access system after we have recovered our costs, which means that, sitting in your home or your favorite restaurant or wherever you do your Internet research, you will be able to conduct a simple keyword search on our site and view every title. We aren’t there yet. While production is in process, only patrons of supporting libraries have complete access, a perk we provide supporting libraries as an incentive for them to help us reach what we call our “sales threshold,” which is the amount of funding we need to break even on this immense project.

But for those who can’t access the complete site, we have already placed a handful of titles—22 to be exact—in open access so that you can get a feel for the site and see what you’re missing. In this screenshot the GI underground paper The American Exile Newsletter is open access. A short list of others: Battle Acts, Berkeley Barb, The Rag (Austin), Bragg Briefs, Conditions, Ann Arbor Sun, Great Speckled Bird, On Our Backs.

Here is our list of libraries that have made the one-time investment to help us achieve open access according to our unique “cost recovery = open access” economic model. As someone who spent over a decade of the last century editing library journals, including Reference Services Review and Serials Review, I regularly heard librarian laments about shrinking budgets and ever-rising serials costs. “Open access” is the gold star for librarians, the alternative to the models of our competitor companies whose digital collections are priced prohibitively high for most libraries and remain behind a pay wall forever, meaning they are only accessible to patrons of those libraries that can afford it, while scholars forever have to pay to gain access to their own articles.

If your library is on this list, you’re in luck. Your thoughtful, progressive, insightful librarians have thrown their support behind the principle of open access while enabling you to do the research you need for your classes and your continuing education in women’s studies, ethnic studies, gender studies, poetry and fiction, American history, political studies, military history, and more. If your library is not on the list, tell your librarian why being able to access Independent Voices is important to you. Personal requests from patrons go a long way in helping librarians determine how to spend their scarce funds. Then contact me or have them contact me at

Before we leave the Titles tab, I want to take you one step inside it. Here’s what you see when you click the red “American Exile Newsletter, The”:


We call this a landing page and every title has one. As you can see, Independent Voices has eight issues of this GI underground newspaper, which was published in Stockholm, Sweden, from March 1973 to March 1975. You can now click the icon for each issue and explore further. The landing page also was not part of our earlier website.

The next three tabs are, respectively:

  • Dates: Presently it goes back to 1950 but two titles that haven’t yet been loaded but that have their roots in the forties are Vice Versa, considered the first lesbian publication of our era, and National Guardian, the forerunner of The Guardian. It goes up to 2013 because, while our stated date range of fifties through eighties (with the two above exceptions) refers to founding dates; some of the papers continued to publish after the eighties and in fact are still publishing.
  • Libraries: We’re working with a growing team of sourcing libraries that provide us with original copies of papers to scan and digitize once we get permission from the intellectual property rights holders. This tab lists the libraries and private donors that have loaned us the titles that are already uploaded. This list will continue to grow substantially because libraries trust us to care for the materials that they send us from their non-circulating collections. We scan and digitize the issues, then return them to the libraries still in good shape because our scanners are the highest-quality, best-trained in the business. At the same time, we provide them with keyword-searchable digital files and metadata of the titles they provide to us.
  • Series: another convenient new feature. Presently it indicates that the website already includes titles from the following collections: Black American, Campus Underground, Feminist, GI Press, LGBT, and Little Magazines. Not listed yet are Latino (including our Chicano papers) and Native American, two of our growing collections for which we have obtained many permissions but that haven’t been loaded yet.

Finally, for now, accessibility is important to us. The content loaded in Independent Voices is page-image-based but we have created a text layer that is accessible to screen readers. The text is created by optical character recognition (OCR) with auto-column detection. It has not been corrected or manually tagged. The text layer is accessible both within the application at the page level (under the “Text” tab) and as downloadable PDF files, at both page and issue levels. The interface uses element labels/titles to assist screen readers in navigation.

Our new hosting platform is Veridian. Here is what Veridian wrote on their website concerning their compliance with web accessibility guidelines:

Veridian is used by many government/public institutions that need to conform to local or international web accessibility guidelines, and as such it has been carefully designed to comply. Veridian has been chosen by the American Foundation for the Blind as a platform for their Helen Keller Archives, partly due to Veridian’s strong commitment to supporting web accessibility, and removing barriers preventing access to websites by people with disabilities.

And that’s my fifty-cent tour of Independent Voices. Now it’s your turn. Search by series or by title or just do a random search and enjoy what you find. If your favorite publication from the period is missing drop me an email at It may simply not yet have been uploaded. Then again, I may have been unable so far to obtain permission. My biggest challenge is finding rights holders. Your help in locating them for me can bring your favorite titles into the collection.

Thanks in advance for your help and your support. If you like what you see and you are excited about the potential, please consider a tax-deductible financial donation to the library or libraries of your choice earmarked to fund their support of Independent Voices. If you don’t know who to contact there, let me connect you with their collection officers. Whatever we’ve done so far, however many newspapers and magazines we’ve already digitized, we can do much more with your help.