Anyone who visited the EJ archive room in our old office across from Casey’s probably only did so once.
If you ever visited to see the archives there, you know why I say that, but I’ll describe it for anyone who never did: it wasn’t an archive room, it was an archive janitorial-closet-turned-room. The average person couldn’t even spread their arms fully. Visitors to the old EJ for archives had to push aside brooms, a giant garbage can, and an industrial grade floor buffer that probably hadn’t ran in at least a decade to get at the shelves that homed precious St. Ansgar historical records.
Not that the shelves were in that great of condition anyway. The dust bunny population was out of control, and many a time I dropped an archive book in fright when pulling it off the shelf revealed a spider hulking beneath.
The large books, which are old newspapers bound together, each one representing a year, were crammed and overcrowded on some shelves and haphazardly leaning against each other on others, causing severe warping in their spines. Pulling out one archive book usually meant a few others falling on your unsuspecting toes… assuming you found the year you were looking for in the first place. If you wanted to see a baseball picture from your son’s 1983 high school days, the odds of seeing 1983 between 1982 and 1984 were slim to none—that book was probably tossed in the ‘40s where there was room last time it was used. Accessing the archives was a chore, looking for a specific year was a gamble, and the resulting damage to some of the books was irreversible.
For anyone who has never taken an afternoon to sit and look through St. Ansgar’s history through the eyes of the Enterprise Journal, or vowed to never do so again after seeing the state of our last archive room, I invite you to come check out our new space sometime post-COVID.
I am very grateful that our publisher put the time and effort that he did into making sure our archives had the perfect new home. While just about everything in the EJ’s office saw an upgrade when moving to our new facility, it is the new archive room that I appreciate the most, and I think you will appreciate it, too.
Our archive books, now in perfect chronological order, are neatly, horizontally stacked in pairs in horizontal cubbies. They live in a motion-lighted (darkness is best for preserving old newspapers), climate-controlled (old EJ office was cooled a la one very small, very tired window unit) space with plenty of room to add archive books for decades to come. The spiders were evicted when we left the old office, and dust bunny control is in full effect.
Once you’ve found the year you’re looking for, there’s plenty of space in the new EJ office to settle in, pour a cup of coffee (while you might have to fight a few cranky newspaper staff members for what’s left in the pot) and reminisce, research, or whatever it is you are hoping to do. If you look at the archives from your own grade school years, you might be pleasantly (or not… depending on how good of a student you were) surprised at how you appeared in the EJ throughout the years.
We hoped to hold an open house in our new office, but COVID has canceled all kinds of plans. Instead, maybe you’ll eventually come see how we’ve upgraded the most important space in the EJ: the one that harbors records of our past.