WMU preparing Kalamazoo newspaper archive for public use

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KALAMAZOO-- The Kalamazoo Gazette newspaper archive, a compendium of the community in words and pictures that dates back to the 1800s, is being prepared for eventual public access as part of the Western Michigan University Archives and Regional History Collections.

The newspaper's owner, MLive Media Group, donated the trove to WMU in May. Since then, University staff members have been busy organizing the collection, which includes news clippings, photographs, photo negatives and bound volumes of the newspaper as well as digital media.

Some of the archival material, in particular the news clippings, may be available in East Hall for the public to see as early as this fall. The collection as a whole represents an invaluable body of information for researchers and others interested in learning about more than 100 years of greater-Kalamazoo history.

"It really tells the story of a community and not just certain parts of the community, but the whole community," says Lynn Houghton, WMU's Regional History Curator.

"You look at some of the newspapers that were produced in the 19th century and so many times, they were focusing on the important public buildings and the rich and famous. But the Gazette collection is really a collection of photos of everything and everybody," Houghton says.

The archive is enormous in not only scope but in size, according to Houghton. It took three days to move six truckloads of material from the newspaper's former Burdick Street building in downtown Kalamazoo to the University campus.

The truckloads included 460 boxes of photographs, photo negatives and digital media; 162 boxes and 40 file cabinets of news clippings; and two cabinets of the Gazette on microfilm from 1835 to present day.

"It's going to take some time to organize this collection but I foresee that there will be parts of it available for public use some time in the fall semester," Houghton says.

She expects the news clippings--articles about individuals, events and organizations--will be the first material accessible for research and reading. The clippings cover about 60 years of news, from the 1930s to the early 1990s.

Houghton says that in organizing and working to preserve the newspaper archive, they are tapping the expertise at WMU, not only in archiving know-how.

For instance, Houghton says the collection includes metal plates that were used to produce the newspaper in bygone days.

"On some of these, we found images we haven't been able to find anywhere else," she says.

One of the plates contains an image of a building that housed Borgess Medical Center in the 1880s. How to recapture this and other images in print, however, is not yet clear.

Houghton says the plates do not appear to be scannable but she is looking to colleagues at the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences for assistance.

"This is just an example of how we're going to be able to tap into the expertise we have right here at the University ... Getting this collection together is going to be wonderful," Houghton says.

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