Pages of history

Cory Hurley
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Newspapers from 1917 donated to museum

Like her dad before her, and presumably whomever was responsible for its creation, Connie Lamswood knew it was special.

George French (right) reads through bound newspapers from 1917 as donors Connie and Mark Lamswood look on. — Photo by Cory Hurley/The Western Star

It’s old and torn in places. The cover comes completely off when it is turned. The pages are worn and faded, some so delicate lifting them requires the gentlest of touch. Yet, the level of self-preservation is quite remarkable despite its storied past — even if its first 60 years are unknown.

What makes it so special is the history and culture contained in it. A newspaper’s account of a time of war. The desperation, uncertainty, fragility of a small British dominion is told through journalists’ eyes and people’s voices. The seemingly unimportant, but so significant, life outside of war is shared on the pages surrounding the stories of war that accounted for the majority of coverage.

It is a bounded compilation of the St. John’s Daily Star from July to December of 1917. The known past of the bounding begins in Corner Brook in the 1970s, when Bill Boyd happened upon it in one of the houses he was renovating for sale by Bowaters on Marcelle Avenue or Cobb Lane. When the company houses were prepped for sale, Boyd and his crew of contractors would upgrade the electrical, plumbing and other aspects to code. Any personal items left behind were typically tossed aside in a dumpster.

Boyd saw some significance in the bounded book of newspapers he found in an attic, so he took it home. When Boyd died in 2000, his daughter, Connie, found the book in his shed. She too understood its historic importance. She kept it safe for some time, before recently handing it over to the Corner Brook Museum and Archives.

Now it rests at the museum, where its preservation becomes one of the most important elements of its existence. That is important to Lamswood.

“I just felt it needed to be preserved, so I thought it belonged in the museum,” she said. “It is something that should be shared with other people so they can see it.”

George French, archivist and manager of the museum, said the collection is a great addition. He hopes to eventually digitize it, either through copying or photography.

There will also be some preservation work done on the collection to help stabilize the book and safeguard the pages.

As well as an intriguing exhibit, it would also be a valuable research tool for anybody looking into that era. He said a newspaper offers an interesting perspective, with the editions featuring local perspectives on unfortunate or celebrated events.

The reports are current, and focus on the Royal Newfoundland Regiment, said French. It is remarkable to have accounts of soldiers who died or went missing, according to the archivists, and articles on people presumed dead who returned home.

“Newspapers are particularly important because, especially on a local level, they might be the only thing documenting history or big events of that level,” he said.

The Western Star

Organizations: Corner Brook Museum

Geographic location: Corner Brook, Marcelle Avenue, Western Star

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