By Ian Ferguson
When she received a call asking if the library would be interested in a collection of Blaine newspapers dating back to the 1926, Blaine librarian Debbie Farmer knew it was an opportunity not to be missed.
The Blaine Library received more than a dozen boxes of archive copies of The Blaine Journal-Press and The Blaine Journal in February, and volunteers are helping the library sort them into permanent storage.
“From what I understand the newspapers had been in a previous auction and an historical group in Sumas had purchased them to look through the obituaries. Then they put them up for auction again, and a librarian in Sumas called to let me know,” Farmer said. “I said, ‘OK, we’ll figure out what to do with them.’”
The library acquired the collection for $60, and local citizens’ group Friends of the Blaine Library purchased acid-free archive boxes to store the newspapers. The Friends group also set up a series of workdays to organize the newspapers by date.
On March 13, Gary Tomsic, Renate Tomsic, Sandra Bogen and Gail Evans spent a couple of hours in the library unpacking newspapers from the old boxes, sorting them by date and placing them in archive boxes. The volunteers wore gloves to prevent damaging the newspapers.
“We’ve emptied seven or eight boxes so far, and we’ll probably have two more work days to get to all of them,” Evans said.
“This is a terrific historical resource for the Blaine community,” said Evans, who has a Ph.D. in history. She added she hopes the library will be able to digitize the collection to make it possible to search for specific terms such as names, places and events.
Issues of The Blaine Journal-Press dating back to 1926 reveal life in Blaine hasn’t changed all that much since then. Headlines included high school baseball games, farmers market announcements and brand new technology. In 1936 a headline read, “Dial Telephones May Be Put In,” and today we’re seeing headlines about Internet neutrality and mobile apps.
Bogen said the group was looking for a headline about the group of Washington boys who rowed their way to the 1936 Olympics, a story that inspired Daniel James Brown’s 2014 novel Boys in the Boat. While they found the Blaine papers published during that time, no mention was made of the story.
Although they were stumped on that particular article, no doubt a rich anthology of stories lies within the collection spanning five decades, from 1926 into the ’70s.
Farmer said storing the collection would be difficult in the space-challenged library. She echoed Evans’ hopes of getting the collection digitized, which would require using a large scanner to scan the pages onto a computer.
“Digitizing the collection would be a great way to make it available to all,” she said.