Thursday, March 08, 2007

Saving paper

Libraries and newpaper publishers are too quick to throw out original materials in favor of microfilm. This isn't an O.C.-specific issue, but it's worth kvetching about.

Case in point: Fantagraphics Books, which publishes beautiful chronological collections of the Peanuts comic strips, can't find a single original copy of one Sunday color strip from 1965. It's missing from Charles Schulz's files, and they can't find an original newspaper from that day anywhere.

Come to think of it, did you know that the O.C. Register threw out its old photos long ago? [See note, below.] That means the best remaining versions of all those images are the half-toned reproductions in the newspapers themselves.

But wait!... The Register ALSO threw out all their original old papers! And all the libraries did the same! That means the newspapers on MICROFILM are now the best remaining version of those images!

Do you know how well photos reproduce from microfilm? It isn't pretty.

Luckily, when the Bancroft Library decided to get rid of their original copies of the Register from the 1930s and 1940s, they asked around to see if anyone else wanted them. Only the O.C. Archives raised its hand, thereby saving a couple decades of history from the dumpster.

Too bad it's only those two decades, or we could've helped Snoopy and his friends.

[ADDENDUM: In recent times, the Register has been very good about retaining its photos and color newspaper pages. The photos they chucked -- long ago -- were pre-1970s stuff. I should have been more specific about that. My experiences with the Register in recent times have been quite positive.

In any case, my purpose was not to point the finger at any particular individual or organization, but rather to highlight the problems caused by the national anti-paper trend, and to point out that Orange County is not immune to these problems.]

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

as a former librarian, who is also an amateiur historian, I agree with you. Someone, somewheee, someplace MUST preserve the originals! Microfilm and microfische also have a very short "shelf life" as do video tapes. CDs and DVD's are better -- but only if the software to read them is still available. But then, paper records and files fade and crumble too, especially if not preserved by archival methods...
Unfortunatly, it comes down to the expense and space and time needed to preserve history. Keep the message going: preserving our history is a vital tool as we plan for the future.