I‘ve recently been working on a project (which I hope to share here soon) relating to my four years of college. The effort brought up many memories of a time not that long ago, some that seemed as fresh as if they happened yesterday and others than were sort of musty.
This experience made me realize how quickly time passes and stories that once seemed so detailed and vivid can fade and become lost to the years. We spend a lot of time scrapping the present, sometimes in the minutest of details and sometimes just for the sake of creativity. I wondered if maybe just a little bit more energy could and should be spent on photo preservation and family history.
It also reminded me of a little obsessive quest that has lingered in the back of my mind for a while.
Newspapers as America’s scrapbook
My parents have a newspaper photo of my grandfather (in uniform) after he returned home from World War II. On it, in his handwriting, is simply the publication (Detroit Free Press) and the year (1945). The clipping is now 65 years old – so I’ve been on a mission to find either the original photo or at second best, an archival reproduction of the newspaper page. To do that, I need to find the date and page number.
With my interest renewed in this activity, I headed over to the University library this morning 110% determined to find the photo (and share it with you here today). However, I was so sad to find out that the four reels of microfilm I needed were checked out for several more months.
They did have a second set of dates that were less likely to contain the photograph, so I browsed them anyway, just in case. I had no luck today in finding the photo, but I didn’t come home empty handed.
This exercise really moved me to think about family history, scrapbooking and newspapers in a variety of ways. Here’s what I noticed:
- We often clip and save family moments from the paper (or have some handed down), but may not be archiving them properly.
- The federal government needs to invest more in digitization efforts, beginning with major newspapers.
- Curiosity was piqued in the Sunday Parade magazine but celebrity gossip didn’t make front page news.
- We are so fortunate to have instant access to news, but the filter of the slower news cycle helped put things into perspective.
- Looking through old newspapers would be an excellent way to teach kids about history. The front page headlines tell so much.
- We still take too many pictures of scenery when its the people that we need to remember.
The first two points really struck me, because the legacies in newsprint and even microfilm are decaying before us. To be blunt about it, we’re all running off into the future without tending much to the needs of the past. When it comes time to remember (or even scrapbook), what will be left to jog your memory? There are amazing stories to be found in attics, basements, archives and libraries. What are you doing about them?
How to preserving newspaper clippings
I did a quick search to find out how our newspaper clipping should be protected and stored, so we can all prevent further degradation to the clippings in our own personal libraries.
- From eHow
- From the Idaho State Historical Society (great simple tips)
- From the Library of Congress (long)
- From Yahoo Answers
I am grateful that we have this photo in its newsprint form, but I am still determined to find the original. Someday I’ll tell the story to my own kids of how my grandpa got the Purple Heart and came home to Michigan to marry my grandmother – making their existence possible. With this photo in hand, I’ll also be able impart wisdom of the memory keeping process as part of own own family’s story.