Northern Michigan in Focus: Saving Leelanau County History

Newspapers are often the historical record for any given area but they degrade over time, and it can be tough to find what you’re looking for searching the stacks.

In this week’s Northern Michigan in Focus, one group’s effort to change all that.

“These boxes are our newspaper collection that we have here, and they are all organized by year,” says Kim Kelderhouse, Leelanau Historical Society.

Leelanau Historical Society curator Kim Kelderhouse could spend days going through the history contained in these pages; local newspapers dating back to the 1875.

They often help people looking into their family history.

“So if someone said, you know, my ancestor passed away in 1877, we’d see if he got a mention in the papers,” explains Kim. “We like to wear gloves because the oils on our skin likes to degrade these very old papers.”

But if these old papers were digitized, searching and viewing would become exponentially easier. Luckily, they’re working on that. The museum is a finalist for a grant from the Clark Historical Library.

“I wrote the grant in November and the deadline was December 3rd, and we heard back December 21st that we were finalist, and that means there is a voting process so we have rally community support and show the Clark Historical Library that our community wants to see the Leelanau Enterprise and other historic papers digitized,” says Kim.

You can help by voting for the project.

“There are two ways to vote. The first way using Twitter and using hashtag #digleelenau, meaning digitize Leelanau. So we want them to tweet all day, every day for the next two weeks, as well as sending in post cards that are available at all four area libraries, including the Woodmere Library in Traverse City, and the Osterlin Library at NMC,” explains Kim.

It could mean the difference between preserving history or volumes of Leelanau County history fading away.

“There is lots of amazing information in there, lots of people like to call them gossip columns but they were pretty accurate daily logs of what was going on in the small communities. A lot of time it was the shipping traffic, this boat came into Leland and the brought iron ore for the ore docks things like that,” says Kim.

The only way they get the grant for this project is with the help of enthusiastic voters.

“This will a great way to kick start it because it really gets the community involved, and then not only will they support it with their votes, but they will know that it will be there when they log in they can get into the website and look at all the things they can research using it.”

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