Disaster-Recovery Archivist

On May 15, 1985, the offices of my hometown newspaper-The Licking Valley Courier, in West Liberty, Kentucky-were destroyed by fire. On learning the next day that the historic papers (beginning in 1910) had survived (being stacked too tightly to burn), but were water-soaked, the local historian and I resolved to save them-even though the premises had been declared off limits as a potential crime scene. We secretly brought a car with trailer into the back alley and I waded into the burned-out basement to retrieve stacks of wet papers.

With help from volunteers, I dried these out in a tobacco barn's hot loft (weighting down individual sheets with tobacco sticks and opening the loft's vents to the wind). Then (after hauling a folding table and chair into the loft by rope) I spent a week repairing and resorting the papers, which were subsequently microfilmed at the University of Kentucky. Shown here is the new building the newspapers continued in-until itself destroyed by a tornado, March 2, 2012, and again replaced.

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