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Paso Robles Historical Society seeking community support to preserve old local newspapers 

–At least 18 newspapers have been published in Paso Robles since the 1800s and the Paso Robles Area Historical Society has collected hundreds of these newspapers, representing thousands of pages to be saved to microfilm and digital media. The newspapers include ”The Leader, “The Record, “Paso Robles Star,” “The Moon,” “Paso Robles Spotlight,” and “Paso Robles Times,” just to name a few.

The first phase of the multi-phased Newspaper Preservation Project has been partially funded from community donations and a recent fundraiser said President Shauna Davis, “We have at least two more phases planned for this long-term project.”

The current collection will be microfilmed and digitized by BMI Imaging in conjunction with The Center for Bibliographical Studies and Research (CBSR) at University of California Riverside. The historical society is seeking additional funds to purchase a microfilm reader and large-scale copier and scanner that will make the newspapers and historic document collection available to the community and researchers.

In addition to the newspapers, the society has an extensive collection of artifacts, photographs, maps, books, donated heirlooms and more, that provide unique insight into the community’s history, as well as, the history of many local families. “The ability to continue to preserve the large collection of photographs, maps, and other important documents is an invaluable asset to the community,” said Davis.

A microfilm reader and a large format copier and scanner will help make the newspapers and many of the documents in the archives available to the public on a much larger scale. The historical society plans to support the schools with classroom presentations and materials about local history. The appropriate equipment will help enrich these classroom projects.

Current and former community members continue to donate old copies of local newspapers to the society. “We know what we have, but we never know what is coming in,” said Vice President Jan Cannon, “It would be a real asset to have the budget and equipment to continue to preserve incoming newspapers.” The cost for microfilming is currently 74 cents per page and digitizing about 6 cents per page. Additional costs include preservation materials and transport costs.

These old newspapers provide priceless historical views of the local community that are not available from any other source. The reports in these old newspapers cover everything from the activities of local residents to local, national and world news.

Recognizing the historical significance of newspapers, the Library of Congress and the National Endowment for the Humanities founded the United States Newspaper Project in 1982. The CBSR is coordinating the California component of this national project. The Paso Robles Area Historical Society is working with CBSR to preserve the unique local newspaper collection in the society’s archives.

The Paso Robles Daily News (PRDN) recently published the first “Looking Back” a new feature publishing periodic excerpts from selected newspapers of the past. The first “Looking Back” was about the sixth Pioneer Day parade in 1936. The PRDN is proud to support the Newspaper Preservation Project by continuing to bring periodic views of local history that are gleaned from the Paso Robles Area Historical Society’s archives.

“One way the community can help with this project is to join the Paso Robles Historical Society,” said Cannon. Members can serve on committees, help with the local history project in the schools, and assist visitors at the museum. The Paso Robles Area Historical Society is located in the historic Carnegie Library in the Downtown City Park, 800 12th Street, Paso Robles. For more information about visiting the museum, membership, the collections or the gift shop, visit the website or call (805) 238-4996.

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About the author: Reporter Jackie Iddings

Jackie Iddings is a contributing reporter and photographer for the Paso Robles Daily News.