Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Before News Crumbles to Dust

Printer and journalist John Peter Zenger surely thought the printing press would forever be the information organ of choice and necessity back in his time, but I wonder if he ever contemplated the future limitations of any words put to paper.
For instance, take newspaper clippings. Better yet, take my newspaper clippings. They only go back to the early sixties, stored securely in plastic bags -- yet, the oldest have become annoyingly yellowed, brittle and flaky. And there are so many. If removed from the bags and stacked flat on the floor, they would easily surpass two feet in height. The earliest clippings date back to 1964, literally a year dominated in UFO lore by the Socorro, New Mexico landed object and occupants reportedly witnessed by patrolman Lonnie Zamora.

Researchers in the UFO area (please don't, ever, refer to us as "UFO experts," truly a meaningless and silly term used primarily by the media, worthy only to be shunned by those who take their work seriously) were often encouraged over the years to donate their life's collection of valuable historical news clippings to this organization or that. The jewel in all of this is the fact that individual researchers' collections also tend to contain local and regional stories that national archives wouldn't even know about. Trouble is, some of the organizations themselves tend to go belly up, and storage for those left to clean up the mess is tough, if not impossible.

Enter the computer and scanner. I just finished a months-long chore of putting hundreds of old LP records and 45s into digital format, and I scanned as much album information as I could manage. The project achieved far more success than anticipated, but if I never again have the need to convert vinyl to digital in an overwhelmingly boring process, that's fine with me. But now, the news clipping dilemma. As surely as the sun will rise tomorrow and influence climate change far more than anything Al Gore can summon up in a speech, my old clippings are disintegrating like vampires into dust.

So the "fun" has begun, I'm off and running with this newest computer project, and I hate every minute of it. Newspaper articles have to fit properly for the scan, and if some columns extend too far they must be cut or moved to another page or resized in some manner. Folded clippings decades old have no desire to sacrifice now-permanent creases in order to look pretty and usable for the scanner, thus the daily battle is on as I try everything except ironing them into flaming newsprint.

Someday, I'll take the digital sum total and donate the neatly performed scans to libraries, historical associations and universities, if they'll have them. This is important stuff. History, at the very least, and evidence of science yet unknown, at the very most.

I think. . .I think I'll reference some of the older things in this blog now and then. I can't reproduce actual scans of clippings here because of copyrights and permission I have tried to obtain and was firmly denied -- but I can discuss them. We'll see where this goes.