Archives play important role in preserving history

March 02, 2012 01:10 pm

I should mention that every Tuesday, when we can, between 11 o’clock in the morning until 1 in the afternoon, we go to the Union County Archives located in our public library in La Grande.

I should mention it, as I said, because it has an important part to play in preserving parts of our local history in that it is climate-controlled to keep the documents from deteriorating.

There are only three of us who work there so the progress is slow in labeling and filing everything that comes in to our storage unit, but we keep pegging away because we feel the importance of keeping our local history and family stories where they can be helpful to our own communities and anyone passing through on research projects.

So far we haven’t advertised the research opportunities these records will allow, but some folks have taken advantage of it, especially in using the City Directories of years gone by.

Right now Kay Hunt and I are working in the warmer front room near the library’s desk on a project of obituaries.  Eventually we hope to have a grand card file to go with it for easy access.

Sandra Boren enjoys the cold room where the bulk of the records are stored and does the main cataloguing. Next to her are the movable shelving with boxes of some rather important documents already in place.

Fred Hill has already donated a number of papers, ledgers, and information for our permanent keeping.

Dorothy Evans turned over pictures, books, and other items having been collected by her deceased husband John “Jack” Evans.

Gene and Geri Palmer, Ann and Luis Rodriguez, Eugene and Marcia Smith, and Elizabeth Cooper, as well as the present members have all made donations of various kinds. Various folks have given old newspapers and family stories.

The library itself has given us the plans for construction of the library building and old ledgers of businesses in the early days.

There will be a niche for George Birnie, the jeweler and optometrist, and his wife Jean, the music teacher, both for whom Birnie Park in Old Town La Grande is named.

Slowly our stock is adding up and one day should be a real asset to researchers.

Our service to this non-profit organization, as granted by the City of La Grande, is strictly volunteer and the donations and grants slow with which to buy supplies. Originally we received a grant from Wild Horse Foundation.

Then donations have come in from the Union County Historical Society and the La Grande Library Foundation. More recently, the Lone Pine Tree Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution helped us purchase items to facilitate our work. A memorial in the name of Mayme Arnoldus was also received.

The big items of a computer, printer, scanner, filing cabinets, and card files must wait until they can be afforded, but our enthusiasm for the work will carry us through over time.

However, should any individual or group wish to contribute to our effort, we would be most grateful.

One thing we would really like to have are more of the old City Directory books, for we are missing a number of years and would like to replace them or even have duplicate copies.

And, if anyone knows anything about the Carnegie Public Library card file cabinet, we’d love to hear about that, too.

Certainly our greatest effort is to save historical records of businesses, clubs, organizations, and families who live or have lived in Union County, but a helping hand to finance our project would also be appreciated.

Call Sandra at 541-963-9479 or stop by our archive room in the library on Tuesdays between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. if you would like to aid in our efforts with financial help or to contribute pictures, diaries, business or organization ledgers or meeting minutes, or family histories.


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