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Niagara County uses Grigg-Lewis Grant to digitally preserve historic newspapers


LOCKPORT, N.Y. -- Thanks to the generosity of a local charitable trust, Niagara County historians have digitally preserved 28,000 newspaper pages, many the only known surviving copies, County Clerk Joseph A. Jastrzemski announced.

The $51,000 project was funded by the Grigg-Lewis Foundation, the Lockport-based philanthropic organization that has funded arts and culture, community, educational, human service, and historical projects in Eastern Niagara County.

Jastrzemski recently welcomed Christa Caldwell, a member of the Grigg-Lewis board of directors and former Lockport librarian, to review the project's progress. Joined by County Historian Catherine Emerson and the chairman of the Niagara County Legislature's Community Services Committee, Legislator Rich Andres, R-North Tonawanda, the group examined original source materials—many the last known copies of area newspapers dating to the mid-19th century—and discussing the status of the project with the vendor that digitized the pages.

"This is an important resource for our community, and we could see that the pages were really starting to deteriorate," Jastrzemski said. "If Grigg-Lewis hadn't stepped in, we risked losing a priceless link to the past. These newspapers contained the story of our county, our families, our troops going to war, and the evolution of our citizens' rights here in Niagara County. There are stories about major crimes and tense periods. We needed to preserve that record."

Jastrzemski praised the County Historians' Office for amassing the materials and ensuring its digital preservation.

"The other advantage here is that, in digital format, we can be a repository for researchers, and there is no danger in sharing this material out and risking its destruction," Jastrzemski said. "Before, even routine handling ensured that these records would eventually be lost, but now these are as close to a permanent record of our history as we can get."

Andres, who is a social studies teacher at North Tonawanda High School, agreed.

"There's an expression that reporters use to describe their newspapers, 'a first rough draft of history,'" Andres said. "For researchers—everyone from high school social studies students to PhDs—this is a treasure trove of first-person accounts."

Andres also thanked the Grigg-Lewis Foundation.

"As a county legislator, I work to keep our taxes down and avoid spending money. This was an important expense for preserving our history and one the Legislature would have had to contemplate funding at taxpayer expense, but thanks to Grigg-Lewis, we were able to preserve this material without the costs being borne by our taxpayers," Andres said.

The materials are available by contacting the Niagara County Historian's Office at (716) 439-7324.

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