I often hear from readers asking how they can find stories that The Star (and The Kansas City Times) ran in the 1980s and earlier. The answer isn't what we want to hear in our Google-fied world.

The Star began keeping its text archives electronically in 1991. Those stories are available through a variety of third-party database services, including in the "search" box at the upper right corner of KansasCity.com. (Select "archives" from the pulldown to the left.) Print subscribers get 25 free searches per month on KansasCity.com.

Most public libraries also have access to this data via NewsBank, Nexis, ProQuest or a variety of other services, and they usually offer it at no cost to the end user. Some of these providers don't go all the way back to 1991, instead starting in 1995.

Additionally, all editions of The Star from 1880 to 1922 have been digitally scanned and made searchable from that same box -- just choose "historical archives" instead of "archives" from the pulldown.

But when you get to the era of the electronic gulf, things are much dicier. There is no index of stories from 1923 to 1990, so the only way for the public to find coverage from that period is to use microfilm.

There, actual papers were photographed in chronological order (a process that continues today, and always will as long as there is a print product). While I will very occasionally find a hole in the microfilm's content, it generally has everything The Star has ever printed. Public and educational libraries will either own or be able to borrow this film easily for patrons.

A word of caution: Microfilm research can be extremely difficult. Many people (myself included) get motion sickness from prolonged sessions looking at pages rolling by. No joke: I recommend you look into an over-the-counter anti-nausea medicine if you plan on doing much of it.