>Your story could end up in a museum

>Sorry for blogging late this week, but we were traveling back from San Jose, where I sold a lot of books at the annual Dia de Portugal festival and packed in a record number of family visits (for a non-funeral trip). On the way home, the need for a break led us to the Douglas County History/Natural History Museum just south of Roseburg, OR. We have passed this building dozens of times on our Oregon-California commute but never stopped there before. Mistake. It’s a great museum with everything from Native American artifacts to old cars to amazing animal dioramas filled with stuffed creatures of all types and sizes. There’s a cozy kids’ room with shelves full of easy-reading books and two fabulously comfortable chairs next to a real fireplace. I highly recommend a visit.

What does this have to do with newspapers? One of the exhibits focused on an explosion that destroyed a large portion of Roseburg in 1959. The main artifacts were pages from the local newspaper with photos and articles about the tragedy. I had never heard about this explosion, but here it was, laid out before me as if it had happened yesterday. I read the details of what happened, saw the results of the blast in amazingly clear photos, and followed the efforts to deal with the death and destruction in the days after. I found it fascinating.

It led me to think about the many times newspapers have been used as historical documents. Pages are still hanging in museums all over the country, probably all over the world. They’re a wonderful source of information for researchers. Exposed to air and sunlight, newsprint turns yellow and disintegrates, but stored properly, it can last decades, even centuries. Libraries used to copy newspapers onto microfilm and now scan them into computer files, but they remain a daily account of what happens in our world. Newspapers are a tangible record. I wonder what will happen to our cyberspace reporting in the decades to come. Will people still be able to read our stories?

I have saved my own newspaper pages from covering floods, mudslides, elections, new businesses, festivals, performances and so many people doing their everyday jobs. Every one captures what was happening at that place and time.

Certainly freelancers don’t get as many front-page stories as staff reporters, but if they are on the scene with a camera when news breaks, editors welcome their contributions.

Whatever you write about, consider its place in history. You too could end up with your work in a museum.

Meanwhile, if you’re traveling this summer, take time to see what’s off the side of the road.

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