By Lethbridge Herald on February 21, 2020.
It’s been said that journalism is the first rough draft of history.
For The Lethbridge Herald, 2020 marks 115 years of publishing and documenting events in the city and region.
Earlier this week, The Herald donated its entire microfilm collection from 1905 to 2019 to the Galt Museum & Archives.
Microfilm, also known as microform or microfiche, are scaled-down reproductions of documents meant to store, read or print. The vault at the Galt is climate controlled for better preservation and its staff moving forward can optimize a system to digitize pages for people.
“It is super exciting,” said Andrew Chernevych, archivist for the Galt Museum & Archives.
“I would say that’s already, easily the highlight donation of the year. It’s one of those milestone donations. The Lethbridge Herald is one of the best records of the Lethbridge history that you ever find — things that were probably not recorded anywhere else would be reported by the local press with all the context.
“Whatever was happening, whatever was the matter of public debate, public discussion — it would be over there. It goes without interruption, continually, through the very early days of the city. We use it everyday, basically.”
The donation was prompted by a building inventory after a water pipe broke in mid-January in a largely unused backroom. A conversation soon began about what would have happened if the pipe break had taken place near the filing cabinets where 115 years of history had been stored.
“As we went through various closets and drawers we found ourselves remembering and discussing some of the history of Lethbridge,” said Brian Hancock, Lethbridge Herald Publisher.
“Rather than throw them out, we decided to share them with the public via the Galt Museum. Years of history seen through the eyes of The Herald are now in a perfect venue with great access and incredible knowledge. We encourage people to drop in at the Galt Museum to rekindle some memories and learn about the history of Lethbridge and southern Alberta.”
For its print archives, the Galt staff primarily use an online site called Newspaper Archives — which has a vast amount of issues of The Herald as well. It allows for keyword searching, but there are items and time periods missing and the page reproduction is not as good, Chernevych says.
“In this case, it’s nice to have actual access to the paper for the quality reproduction,” he said.
“That whole microfilm collection is actually very valuable for us for those kind of purposes; filling gaps, creating possibility for better reproduction and providing the overall backup for the online thing. Because we think right now it will be there forever. Might not be the case. It may go down. It might disappear. Now we have a backup. Myself, I think the museum overall, and the community, would feel much more reassured that this resource is preserved because we have the originals on microfilm.”
The Galt archives are open to the public. Information on The Herald pages dating back to 1905 will still begin with the online site for keywords and dates, Chernevych says, then the microfilm access will be by request for specific pages as needed.
For other Herald reference, the Lethbridge Public Library has some microfilm editions, as well, while the University of Lethbridge archives has folios of print editions from roughly 1919 to 1954.
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