Commemorating history as it happens


“The newspapers are making morning after morning the rough draft of history.” This quote has been widely attributed to journalist Alan Barth in an article published in The State  newspaper in Colombia, South Carolina December 5, 1905. The quote was later popularized by the Washington Post’s former president and publisher Phillip L. Graham.

The quote really rang true in a recent meeting with Wyoming State Archivist Kathy Marquis and Wyoming State Librarian Jamie Markus. We were discussing the vast trove of microfilmed and digitized pages from Wyoming’s newspapers archived, housed, and managed by the state library, state archives, and at the University of Wyoming. 

These pages are accessed over 133,000 times each year by researchers, academics, and historians.

Our recent discussion centered around how the process is working for all involved, including Wyoming’s newspapers. It was gratifying to hear that the system is working pretty well for all involved.

The conversation then turned to concerns that some newspapers may be putting content on line that does not appear in print editions. The professionals are concerned  that they would miss this content and not be able to archive it.  In Wyoming there is very little information produced by newpaper journalists and published on line by them that does not appear in print. So by using the printed newspaper pages the archivists are not missing out on history as it is being made in the communities local newspapers cover.

Given the plethora of electronic and on line news sources now available, and the ever changing media landscape, it is comforting to realize that local newspapers continue to be the consistent and reputable recorders of history. Just as today’s historians use these newspaper archives to research the past, historians in the future will be able to discover what our state, county and local governments were up to in 2021.

News of today will be available for them to write as history.

Thanks to state statutes requiring public notices to be published in the newspaper of record in each Wyoming county, citizens of today and in the future will be able to read minutes of county commission and city council meetings. They’ll be able to see the raw budgets of these entities on the public notice pages. A combination of the public notice information with coverage on the news pages gives historians a clear picture of the happenings, issues, and politics of whatever period of time they are researching in whatever Wyoming city and county they are focused on.  

News of today will be available for them to access down the road.

At wyomingnewspapers.org the University of Wyoming Library and the Wyoming State Library provide digitized copies of 142,213 newspaper issues and 1,170,937 pages and growing. As the website says “Get in touch with Wyoming’s past through historical and archived Wyoming Newspapers. Historians, genealogists, students, and scholars will find a wealth of reliable information here, all first-hand accounts of local news from days gone by. Our earliest archive dates back to 1849 but many of these papers survived for only a brief time and disappeared like the boom-and-bust ghost towns of Wyoming and the west.” 

At wyoarchives.wyo.gov you can find information about how to easily access the collection of microfilmed newspapers maintained at the Wyoming State Archives.

Thanks to these efforts, the news of today will be available in the time to come.

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