Saturday, February 23, 2013

Historical Archives

Back in 2010, I wrote about all of the photos from The Fincastle Herald that were stored in plastic tubs.

At the time I was sifting through them, I and another history lover were contemplating a book together. However, I went back to college to finish up my masters degree, and she is pursuing a book on her own now, something different from what we had contemplated.

So the tubs of photos went into my barn, because I had no place else to store them. The newspaper office had no place to store them, either, and in fact the former newspaper owners had instructed the editor to throw the photos out.

But he had saved them, and until they were in my barn, they were in his.

Last spring, I was at a Botetourt Farm Bureau Women's Committee meeting when they mentioned they were eager to locate old photos of agriculture in the county. So I told them what was in the barn.

A few weeks ago, I received a phone call from Gwen Ikenberry, co-president of the Women's Committee. They were ready to deal with these pictures.

So we hauled them over to the Farm Bureau office.

There were nine tubs of photos. About half were loose and the other half were in folders with dates on them.

We set up apple boxes, courtesy of Ikenberry's Orchards, and created 21 different categories for the photos.

This is Elizabeth, who greatly enjoyed the work of sorting the pictures.

It was rather fun, for there was no way to not run across pictures of places and people you knew.

It was like a party all week, with various people in and out, putting pictures in boxes.

This is Gwen, who arranged everything and even took time off from work to deal with the pictures.

This is Toni, who also helped a lot.

I spent about eight hours over there helping to sort photos, but felt that was all the time I could give to the project. This was mostly because the old photos have a smell to them and were causing problems with my asthma, which I could ill afford. People don't realize how sick that makes me or how long it takes me to recover. 

In any event, the photos were sorted out, and some of the boxes went out to various historic groups, towns, or other civic organizations interested in preserving the pictures. The Farm Bureau Women's Committee kept all of the agriculture-related photos for their various projects.

Those with photos have been instructed to scan them and return them to the newspaper editor, where they will join the other unused photos.

Those unused photos went back into the newspaper editor's barn, where perhaps some day they will again see the light, and other folks with history on their minds will oo and ahh over the visuals.


  1. Oh gosh, what a project. Thank goodness there were several people to help because it sounds tedious. Interesting perhaps, but tedious.

  2. I guess you have to be someone who has lived in the FIncastle area for years in order to know what you are looking at and sorting the photos. Seems like there should be lots of long time residents there that could help with a project such as this.

  3. The photo of tubs overflowing with photos looked overwhelming. But,with a little organization, you all made a great project of it. I think you greatly preserved the life of these archives.

  4. What a happy story for old photos to be salvaged, wanted, used.

  5. What a great project. People are so careless with the past. They just accept it when times change and places close and are used for other things or fall down or whatever. The people who worked or lived there and knew what went on die and with them whole slices of knowledge about local history are lost. It is as if they never lived. I am always coming across remains of old mines or farms or factories like pipeworks on the moors - the area where I live has several layers of history, some of it heavily industrial - and when I ask about who owned these things and worked there, nobody knows. If it was ever written down, that has been lost, and what resided in people's memory has vanished into thin air.

  6. how exciting and so happy that they guy didn't just throw them out like instructed! will we be seeing these anywhere?

  7. What a time-intensive project, but exciting as well. Kudos to you and the editor for NOT throwing them out. I wish I had all the photos and family memorabilia my paternal aunt had. She died when I was in college, her husband soon after, and I have no idea what became of everything. I would hope stuff was donated to a local historical society, but being realistic am sure everything was thrown away.


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