For any historian, there’s nothing quite as devastating as losing written history. Knowing there was once a record of events and happenings that’s now lost by fire, flood, or decay is gut wrenching. The tragedy of losing written history has driven members of the Courthouse Square Association of Charlotte to start the Eaton County History Newspaper project.
The project essentially involves finding the master prints, microfilm, and, if need be the, original newspaper prints themselves and creating digital copies that can be used online. So far the project has digitized over 113 reels of newspaper. Everything from the Bellevue Gazette, Charlotte Tribune, Eaton County Republican, and more has been digitized already, and the group spearheading the project is still collecting more historic newspapers from around Eaton County.
Project members have run into some close calls. Recently they feared that all of a Mulliken newspaper had been lost in the burning of a library, only to find that one Mulliken local still had the masters in her residence. The masters were donated, and digital prints were made right away.
The task of digitizing the newspapers has been handed over to a New Yorker named Tom Tynisky. It’s the life passion of Trynisky to take historic newspapers and digitize them. He’s worked on newspapers from all over the country, and he works quickly and efficiently so that the digital copies are readily available to the communities of origin.
For the project members from CSA in Charlotte, the need to digitize historic newspapers goes beyond a simple history hobby. Having digital copies that are word search sensitive saves journalists, researchers, and curious locals hours and days of scrolling through microfilm, and months of flipping through decaying newspapers. Decaying microfilm is a real problem for many historic newspapers. Things like vinegar rot set in to the film and breaks it down, ruining the once state-of-the-art technology.
For months now members of the Eaton County History Newspaper Project have been frantically searching and collecting as many historical newspapers as possible. They’ve also been collecting generous donations from dozens of local organizations. Historical societies from Livingston, Bellevue, and Eaton Rapids GAR museum are just a few contributors. The biggest single contribution, however, came from Capital Region Community Foundation, which donated $6,000 to the project.
This outstanding donation covered much of the project’s operating costs for several months. However, the Eaton County History Newspaper Project still welcomes donations. There are a number of other newspapers that still need to be collected and digitized, and sending the newspapers to Trynisky in New York is costly. Those wishing to donate can make checks out to CSA-ECHNP and mail them to PO Box 411 Charlotte MI 48813. For more general information on the project readers can visit www.echnp.org. To access the already digitized historic newspapers, readers can click on the newspaper tab, then click the Fulton Historic Newspapers Website tab. (Some internet browsers do not work well with the Fulton Historic Newspapers website.) For more information on the project’s umbrella organization, Courthouse Square Association, readers can visit csamuseum.net.