Wednesday, September 18

The Sensation and Joy of Paper

In our digital age there are those who no longer value paper. I was told I should garbage the copies of our Cupar Herald, because they were on micro film at the Saskatchewan Archives, and the paper itself was disintegrating. The early copies are over one hundred years old. Even under climate control conditions their time is limited. Certainly I am happy they are preserved on microfilm but is that the end? 

The other day a couple from British Columbia came to our museum searching for family information. They had visited our cemetery and found a headstone. We brought out a handwritten Masonic registration book and found their relative. Then I pulled down a 1914 copy of our paper and found their ancestors: the exact date of the marriage, the church and minister. I pulled down a 1923 paper and found the report of the tragic death of their ancestors young son. The couple ran their hand across the page and moved a hundred years back, reading for the first time as did the family about the tragedy. 

There is not only a tactial quality to this gesture but a kind of warm sensation to know you are looking at the original within the context of the entire newspaper on that exact date. Certainly the couple could have eventually found the information on a vital statistics website, the dry facts only, but is that enough?

1 comment:

Dan Holbrow said...

This is a thought-provoking post! It's great to hear that you've got the space and resources to keep them. As you've pointed out, newsprint was never intended to last, and there's only so much you can do to slow its deterioration.

For many museums with scarce resources for conservation, it can be a better use of time and money to focus on preserving objects that will last. That's why it's so great that organizations like the provincial archives and Sask History Online are doing so much great work digitizing our documentary heritage and making it accessible.