Opinion

Archive clean-up reveals hidden treasures

It was a joy last Wednesday to welcome former Valley Record Editor Gloria McNeely and local historians Dave Battey and Ruth Pickering into the newsroom to help us organize and condense photo archives stretching back 26 years.

In the days before digital cameras, newspaper photos were shot on film and used in a variety of formats, including slides, negatives and contact sheets. Old photos from the 1970s, 80s and 90s were stored in our office, presumably for the benefit of posterity.

However, posterity has come and gone and the photos remain, gathering dust. It seemed like most of the photos were of little use to anyone, but our resident historians amazed us, finding that we had buried treasure, of a kind, on our hands.

The shots were organized by year, but don’t include anything in the way of identification. Battey and McNeely had to use their collective decades of Valley memory to sort those that might be of use to local historical institutions and those which are, well, less valuable.

Battey’s exclamations echoed through the office all afternoon, as he discovered faces and places that probably haven’t been seen or remembered by anyone — for years.

“Oh my gosh!” he said. “Here is a picture of the organ in Goliath’s Pit, which is now the senior center in Carnation. This is a priceless picture.”

Former mayors, school children who are now grown, and Valley businesspeople who are now decidedly older and wiser passed through his hands, as did vanished buildings and long-lost hairstyles — remember the perms of the early 1990s?

Many of the shots are going to be hard to place. For example, who remembers why hundreds of balloons were launched into the sky from an undefined Valley location in the late 1980s? What school did a young Rick Krona dedicate in that year? Was that the Lower Valley where hundreds of children appear to be dedicating a park?

“There’s an immense amount of mysteries,” Battey said. “This is going to be a test.”

Some of these mysteries may yet be cleared up. Unlike the late Harold Keller’s historic photo collection, gathered by his son Ward into the book “Vanished” in 2007, the people pictured in the Record’s photo collection stand a much better chance of being identified.

With luck, McNeely, Pickering and company will create a fascinating archive of the past using the Record’s photo record.

This week, we are running one of the amazing images from this trove in our ‘Out of the Past’ section. On page 14 of this week’s paper is an image of the first platted map ever drawn of the city of Snoqualmie. A reproduction was handed off to the city council more than 20 years ago.

We look forward to identifying and sharing more such discoveries of important people and events.

• Seth Truscott is editor at the Snoqualmie Valley Record. E-mail him at editor@valleyrecord.com.

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