I grew up in a community newspaper print shop in the South Okanagan. My father was the publisher, as was his father before him. There were lots of fun (read: dangerous) things for my sister, brothers, and me to get up to. We played with the automatic paper shuffler, put our grubby hands on the newspaper copy, and snuck into the darkroom to pester the photographer. When we were sure no one was looking, we used the massive industrial paper cutter that could slice through thousands of sheets like butter. Shockingly, all of us still have our fingers. The smell of ink and photo developing chemicals is my childhood.

Haney didn’t mean to have a would-be newspaper heiress take over the project of its collection of The Salmon Arm Observer, but that is indeed what happened. Before the arrival of said heiress at Haney, the Curator, Deborah Chapman, was gifted the original prints of The Observer dating back to its first edition in October 1907. The Observer was downsizing and needed to shed extra weight before moving into a smaller space – Chapman happily accepted the prints.

The old editions were, unfortunately, in rough shape when they arrived at Haney. Newspapers are not supposed to last. They are made of quick and cheap composite paper, meant to be read and discarded. We’re talking 114-year-old papers that weren’t meant to last past the week they were issued. What happens over time is that the paper composite becomes extremely brittle and substances used in its production begin to deteriorate. To make matters worse, the fragile, brittle newspapers arrived in cardboard boxes, bound in different composite paper products, and Frankenstein cellophane tape holding some of the pages together by a thread.

The newspapers clearly needed to be moved to a safer environment. They needed a Home Makeover. So I researched. I consulted with the conservator from the Kelowna Museum, Nikki Bose, and I dug into notes from my master’s degree to come up with a plan to re-house these priceless newspapers.

I decided to, first and foremost, remove the newspapers from their cardboard boxes and transfer them to archival-quality, acid-free boxes specifically for newspapers. Volumes which had their original bindings in good condition, I put directly in a box, but those that had deteriorating or broken bindings were another story. In some cases, I carefully removed the damaged covers, wrapped the newspapers in archival-quality paper and tied them closed like a present. This is what I did with unbound volumes, too. Many of the pages were so brittle and creased that they were in pieces when I opened the boxes. This was, however, unsurprising, due to the nature of newsprint. Pages that I could piece together again, I did so by sandwiching the puzzle-piece page between two sheets of archival plastic, held together on the inside by archival double-sided tape. Where needed, I placed strips of archival foam around the edges so that the newspapers wouldn’t move around in the boxes when taken off the shelf.

What an improvement!

Now, organized neatly by year, in safe materials that will last for years, The Observer has received its well-deserved, custom Home Makeover. Archival materials were purchased with a grant from the Shuswap Community Foundation. With their financial help, we were able to realize a sizeable project that was very important to us as a public institution, and also to the community for whom we hold these archives in trust. Without the re-housing project, the original copies of our community newspaper would have eventually become too fragile to handle at all. Luckily, the pages of The Observer had been previously microfilmed and indexed to make them searchable so the originals stay mostly undisturbed while still having access to the information they contain.

Working on this project brought to mind a lot of the joy and discovery I experienced as a kid in the back room of the newspaper my family ran. Peering into the history of Salmon Arm, written by Salmon Arm, was a real treat. I am very happy that these reminders of the past can live on in physical form, as well as microfilm. My grandfather said the only way the newspaper worked was with cooperation and teamwork. I can see what he meant. From the past and present staff at The Salmon Arm Observer, to Deborah Chapman, to the Shuswap Community Foundation, and to those whose expertise I sought and heeded to make this project successful: I thank you.


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