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Where old meets new: how the Midvale Museum digitized city newspapers

Jun 28, 2018 10:46AM ● Published by Jana Klopsch

One of many display cases of memorabilia at the Midvale Museum. (Heather Sky/City Journals)

By Heather Sky | heather@mycityjournals.com 

The Midvale Museum was established in 1979 with the help of the Daughters of the Utah Pioneers. The museum, filled with the unmistakable smell of antiques and old books, was initially located in the old Midvale City Hall. When the Midvale Museum moved to its new location on Main Street, that created room for expansion in City Hall.  

Bill Miller is the director of the Midvale Museum and president of the Midvale Historical Society. Andy Pazell is the vice president of the Midvale Historical Society. Andy has been with the museum five years. 

“Midvale is my hometown,” Pazell said. “It was a great place to grow up.” 

Growing up in the Midwest, there was a main street in every small town Miller traveled through not unlike the one located in Midvale. “So, I fell in love with Midvale,” he said.  “I had to have something to do, so I [eventually realized] I had to have a museum. It’s in my blood. I was born in Lawson, Missouri. We lived on about 165 acres, and our closest neighbor was about a mile away. I think that’s why I love the museum life.” 

Pazell has now been running the museum for 13 years. 

“One of our main goals since I’ve been here was getting the newspapers stored properly,” Miller said. “We have the newspapers from 1925 up until today. We’ve attempted [several] times to get them digitized, and every time we would get to that point, it proved to be cost prohibitive.” 

In 2017, they found a solution to their problem. 

“About a year ago, we got a call from OCI, the Oklahoma Correctional Institute, and they said they would digitize every yearbook we had,” Miller said. “It was part of a work training program for prisoners. They had a goal of contacting libraries and museums nationwide to digitize [yearbooks] for free. There were pages that were so fragile, they would crumble in your hands. They came back to us on DVD, and I have never seen any other place that has done such a beautiful job in digitizing [newspapers]. They did such a good job, I asked them if they would digitize newspapers too. They said there would be a charge, but when we got the final bill ,it was even less than we anticipated.” 

According to Miller, “The process took almost 11 months, from the time we shipped the [newspapers] out until we got them back. If you look online, you don't see the blemishes. I don't know how they did it; they must have been meticulous.” 

Upon receiving the newspapers in digitized form from OCI, Miller said, “Andy contacted the University of Utah, and Tina Kirkham (digital project library manager at the Marriott Library) was so excited she came down and I gave her a thumb drive with all the newspapers on it. She told me yet would have to hire a student to break the files down, because of the way they were formatted. She called two days later and said it had already been done. Within three days they had them online.” 

Miller was so excited, he couldn’t wait to share the news. 

“I called Joe [at OCI] and told him we already had them online,” he said. “He wanted to know how to get to it, so the prisoners could see it. They are very grateful people. We never heard one negative word in [our time working] with them.” 

You can find the Midvale Journal Sentinel newspapers at digitalnewspapers.org 

“We were able to digitize up to 1950, and we're trying to raise funds to do more,” Miller said. “I don't know how many museums have newspapers that span 100-plus years. We're looking to get the rest of them [digitized] by the end of the year.” 

A lack of funds isn’t the only challenge the museum faces. 

“The museum has continued to grow, but our volunteers are shrinking by the day,” Miller said. “It’s entirely run by volunteers. We do have a paid secretary from the city that works 10 hours a week, but we are desperate for volunteers.”. 

“We need youth,” added Pazell. “We are hoping to interest the younger generation by having this information online. I'm a little worried about the future.” The museum is actively seeking volunteers of all ages to work one four-hour shift per month. 

You can visit the Midvale Museum at 7697 Main Street in Midvale on Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. For more information on how you can get involved, call 801-569-8040.

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