Recently I’ve had the opportunity to dis-bind a bound edition of our school newspaper, send it off for digitization and then to create a clamshell box to house the single pages when they return. The process of dis-binding bound newspapers is a very delicate one. In this case, The News Record 1971-72, was no exception. Newspapers, by their very nature are meant to be read and thrown away. The paper they are printed on is not meant to last and it fades and becomes acidic and brittle very rapidly. The solution to preserving the paper’s information back in the early 70’s, before digitization was even a thought, was to bind a couple years’ worth of the News Record together in a hard cover much like a large book. This was a good method for preserving a piece of U.C.’s history, however the binding was meant to be permanent and no thought was given to reversing the process at a later date.
Once I removed the textblock from the cover I saw that it had been stabbed sewn and in some cases very close to the printed margins. Not good. The sewing was further coated with a hard, varnish like adhesive that could not be diluted, softened or dissolved. At this point one may be wondering why we even need to take the time to preserve a few volumes of an old school newspaper. I think the answer is that it’s very important to preserve all aspects of our history, not just the big stories but also the everyday ephemera. I discovered this as I began working to remove each page one at a time. Because the paper was so delicate, I had to be very careful and this gave me a chance to look closely at what I was dis-binding.
Working through the textblock was like unlocking a time machine. Afros, bell bottom jeans and Paisley shirts tumbled out. For me the ads jumped off the pages and revealed far more about that period in our history than the articles did. There were ads for concerts featuring Helen Reddy, Mac Davis, Pink Floyd, Arlo Guthrie, Ike & Tina Turner, Kris Kristofferson, Cheech & Chong, Linda Ronstadt, Don McLean, Loggins & Messina and the Grateful Dead. Other ads invited students to experience Maharish Mahesh Yogi and transcendental meditation or to volunteer to help elect Jerry Springer as Mayor of Cincinnati. Some ads asked students to protest the issues of the day and addressed the Black Power and anti-war movements, or the Women’s and Gay rights struggle.
The story of the early 70’s that we are saving was a colorful, vibrant and exciting time and I can say that with conviction because in 1971 I had just gotten out of the army and had enrolled at The University of Wisconsin. I’m glad that we are preserving our history for others to read about and see and I like the thought that somewhere down the road a future Conservation Tech will be transferring the digital version of The News Record to another format in the same way that we transferred the printed page to digital.
Patrick Schmude (UCL)— Conservation Technician