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Editorial – Preserving what we can

Our Progress Editorial cartoon of the week from Dwight Henderson

By Dan Pool
A picture is said to be worth a thousand words. If true, there is a table in the Progress’ small lobby worth a million words right now. It’s loaded with pictures.
For those not seeing the ads, after 40 years, we are doing a full renovation of our office on Main Street – and if that million words translated into dollars, it would really come in handy.
Anyone who has entered our office will attest, it’s cluttered and badly in need of a facelift. We’re working on it.
Part of the challenge we anticipated going in was what to do with all the stuff (for lack of a better word) we have accumulated — everything from super cool looking 1970s computer parts to our Hackin’Packin’Aplaca toy given to us by a PACA arts group leader as part of a running joke.
Getting rid of old desks and chairs – while tough on backs – doesn’t have much emotional impact; shredding old financial records is a mundane chore.

Then there are the photos. Lots of photos taken by our photographers at news events, photos sent by proud parents, photos showing sports glory and car wrecks and parades downtown and people standing around at events like a Marble Festival art show.
Some are entertaining to anyone looking at them but most are fairly routine – unless you know the people in them.
For every one of a massive crowd downtown, there are dozens of a ribbon cutting at a business or two people shaking hands or a baby – only interesting if you know the baby.
We have thrown it open for the past few weeks to come and get any of these photos. We have e-mailed or messaged subjects in photos we recognized or their relatives. If it is your baby or business ribbon cutting or your uncle taking an oath of office, we’d love you to have the original. After all we have a copy, well preserved in our archived printed pages.
But there are a couple of things we can’t do and after I explain, I hope you’ll understand.
First, back to the thousand-word value — What is a photo worth if it’s unlabeled and unidentified? Our collection is sorted by date, making it hard to know what’s there without flipping through one at the time. This is why we offered no definite answers to questions of “is there any of XYZ in there?” The best we can say is “maybe, come take a look.”
A Nostradamus might have come along in the 1980s and said hold on newspaper editor, one day there will be a way to show all these photos on everyone’s telephone and you need to keep them sorted and scanned where you can easily upload them. We would have laughed at the idea of looking at photos on a phone.
It would be a tremendous amount of labor to go back and start labelling and scanning and posting.
But for anyone who worries we have been cavalier with preserving history, please consider:
• Our e-editions now preserve photos and everything else we publish every week and they are searchable online and available to all.
• We are turning a big pile of old cds and dvds over to the University of Georgia library. For many years we saved our digital pages on discs with the belief discs would never become obsolete. Hmmm, missed that one, too.
• Our older microfilm of pages, before cd burners came along, have been sent to, a product from and they will be available there at some point.
For our truly old editions, it’s only paper. It will take someone with special equipment, scanning the pages one at a time and keeping the pages properly labelled, then uploaded somewhere. No small task and we guard our paper archives, the older the pages the more dry and fragile.
Not everything can be saved and preserved and made available online, but we have done what was feasible for a small staff who still has to get out a paper every week.
Finally, for anyone who would like to take a look at the photos and see if there are any they want, come by our office Monday through Friday 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. before Wednesday, September 29 when all the remaining photos will be turned over to an interested, local citizen.

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