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Historical Society looks to display newspaper collection, give away duplicate editions

click to enlarge Editions of the Times-Standard sit organized on tables at the Timber Heritage Association’s facility in Samoa.


Editions of the Times-Standard sit organized on tables at the Timber Heritage Association’s facility in Samoa.

The Humboldt County Historical Society will be displaying two decades' worth of editions of the Times-Standard at the Timber Heritage Association's shops in Samoa on each of the next three Saturdays, hoping for the public's help curating them into an exhibition and giving away duplicate copies.

Steve Lazar, past president of the Humboldt County Historical Society, said the collection — amassed from several sources — includes tens of thousands of physical copies of the paper, which volunteers have organized by date. From 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on March 23, March 30 and April 7, Lazar said the collection will be open to the public to rummage through. Anyone who wants to pick up duplicate papers can, he said, whether for a papier mâché project, to commemorate an anniversary or birthday, or to preserve coverage of a landmark event or personal achievement.

But Lazar says he's really hoping members of the public will help curate an exhibition that will be on display throughout the paper giveaway and, ideally, displayed in a local museum or Arts Alive venue afterward. Lazar says posterboards will be set up all three days, with members of the public encouraged to pluck headlines and stories from the stacks to add to the display.

"There's no right or wrong answers," he says, adding that people could choose to pull stories representing milestone moments in Humboldt County history or stories that track a topic — like homelessness, waterfront development or Crabs baseball — through time. "Everyone is going to see a different thing, and it's all a part of our past."

The bulk of the newspaper cache came from the Times-Standard itself, according to a Historical Society slide presentation. When the newspaper's ownership — MNG Enterprises, Inc., a majority of which is held by the investment firm Alden Global Capital — decided to consolidate printing in Chico in 2020, closing the press at the Times-Standard's old building on Eureka's Sixth Street, volunteers rescued reems of bound and unbound copies from the paper's internal archive that would have been thrown away. The papers were then stored in the society's garage. (The society also rescued a large collection of old Humboldt Times papers found in an auxiliary building at the airport in McKinleyville a couple of years later.)

Volunteers then combined to spend more than 1,000 hours over the course of five months last year to sort, catalog and organize the Times-Standard editions, determining that in addition to a near-complete collection from 1995 through 2015, there were lots of duplicates.

Lazar said the Historical Society plans to digitize the 20-year collection it is keeping, noting that while the editions are available in local libraries on microfilm, those are in low-resolution grayscale, while these will be images from higher resolution color scans, which will better preserve the photographs. The hope is also to create a searchable keyword index, which would allow researchers and others to seek out specific stories or topics without knowing the date a story ran.

The papers will be displayed at the Timber Heritage Association shops, located at 930 Vance Ave. in Samoa (from State Route 255, cross the train tracks and go through the gates near the intersection of Vance Avenue and Cookhouse Road to reach the facility). Lazar says he's very hopeful people will come check out the collection and share what they'd like to see in an exhibit, spending some time to sift through the years of headlines and stories, clipping what they find interesting and helping to curate it into a display.

"It really does have the potential to be a fun community exercise," Lazar says, adding that he recently got lost in a couple of boxes from 1997, reading about the South Jetty encampment evictions and other stories that dominated the day. "If people show up, I think they'll find it rewarding."

Editor's note: In the interest of full disclosure, it should be noted that this reporter worked at the Times-Standard from 2005 through 2013, and many of his bylines are consequently included in the collection.

Thadeus Greenson (he/him) is the Journal's news editor. Reach him at (707) 442-1400, extension 321, or [email protected].

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Thadeus Greenson

Thadeus Greenson is the news editor of the North Coast Journal.

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