Since 1999, Thomas Tryniski has been diligently scanning newspapers from microfilm to his free online archive, Fulton History. Currently there are over 51 million pages from American and Canadian papers in the collection. He does all of the work by himself from his Fulton, New York home.
I found out about the site from the owner of a historic hotel, TikTokker @thenightingalehall, who starts her 'stan' video by calling it, "the greatest website on the whole internet." She says she used Tryniski's site to learn about her home but remarks that it's also great for researching genealogy. A commenter, Kimberly E, agrees, "For 10 years I was a genealogy librarian and pointed patrons here more than our paid newspaper databases. We loaned him some microfilm."
I had to know more and a search led me to a terrific 2018 Columbia Journalism Review profile on Tryniski:
It started as a hobby; a co-worker gifted him an old postcard and he'd gone to the local library to find out who the people in the photo were. As a kid, he'd obsess about columns in the old Fulton Patriot that featured photos of the town's industrial history—black-and-white images of men and women in front of massive warehouses and quaint, locally owned storefronts. The archives of the Fulton Patriot brought him back to those times. And with that, Tryniski, a lifelong Fultonian, began an entirely unexpected second career.
Fultonhistory.com, which Tryniski coded himself, is frenetic and charmingly outdated; the homepage is swimming with Flash graphics (such as a goldfish that sticks out its human-like tongue) and enough scrolling marquee text to make an early-aughts Xanga page designer nostalgic. He built a chat room where browsers can ask questions and report problems and, on occasion, be terrorized by a crazed, lime-green joker cartoon he controls remotely, mostly for kicks. The entire operation was, in the beginning, routed through a Russian server.
The dream of the nineties internet is alive! Go check it out: FultonHistory.com. Heads up, the site is reportedly slow and "glitchy" with high traffic.