From the editor: Steamboat Pilot & Today photo archives are a treasure trove of history
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Pilot & Today has been chronicling the history of Routt County since 1885, telling the stories of our community through words and images, and in the process, accumulating thousands of photos that were stored in boxes and filing cabinets in our old Curve Plaza location.
When we began making plans to move to our new offices in the 910 Yampa building, I quickly realized we needed to find a way to permanently preserve all of those negatives, black-and-white photos and old newspaper clippings. The content I uncovered while sorting through folders and boxes was amazing. Time and time again, I found myself sitting cross-legged on the floor with a folder in my lap totally immersed in some period of Yampa Valley history.
Each folder contained images taken by a Pilot & Today photojournalist along with related newspaper articles and sometimes reporter’s notes — priceless information that offers a unique glimpse into our community’s history. There were folders chronicling the Good News building explosion of 1993, the Yampa River flood of 1974 and the Buffalo Pass airplane crash of 1978 to name just a few. Other folders focused on downtown Steamboat businesses, the history of Mount Werner and Routt County ranching families.
The sheer volume of these archives threatened to overwhelm me logistically, because I knew our more compact downtown offices would not have space to store them, so I turned to the Tread of Pioneers Museum for assistance.
Museum Executive Director Candice Bannister was immediately interested in perusing our photo collection, and together with the assistance of an archives consultant, we took a quick inventory, and soon after, the Steamboat Pilot Archives Project was born.
The bulk of the collection spans from 1970 to 2001, but there are some pre-1970 original photos that date back as far as 1881. The archive is still being quantified, but the number of printed images surpasses 5,000. The goal of the project is to merge the photos into the museum’s online photo database and make them available to the public.
Currently, the historic collection is being kept in a climate-controlled storage space graciously donated to the museum by Curt Weiss and Central Park Management, and over time, the museum will work to preserve and digitize all of these images, which is a significant undertaking. The work is time-consuming and comes with a cost, so the museum is also actively fundraising to support this project, and we hope those who love the idea of preserving the history of our local area will consider making a donation.
One of the newspaper’s most important roles is to serve as a community connector. Our stories inform and educate, and sometimes entertain, and we also report on the lives of local residents. I believe it’s important for us to remember where we came from, so another one of our jobs is to connect people to the past. That’s what we hope to do through our new From the Pilot Archives weekly photo feature.
Each Saturday, we’ll publish a photo from the Steamboat Pilot Archives collection with whatever information we have about the image. These photos are among those the museum is working to preserve, and we hope this new editorial focus will shine a light on Routt County’s rich history and also bring attention to the Steamboat Pilot Archives Project.
Some of the photos we publish and post may have had limited information attached with them, so we’ll also be asking readers for their input and help in identifying certain photos or subjects in those images.
Our first installment of “From the Pilot Archives” appears in Saturday’s newspaper and features a picture of Tom Morgan’s Livery Stable, circa 1890, in downtown Steamboat Springs. We hope you enjoy the new content, and if you would like to support the Steamboat Pilot Archives Project, contact Candice Bannister at the Tread of Pioneers Museum at 970-879-2214 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
To reach Lisa Schlichtman, call 970-871-4221, email lschlichtman@SteamboatPilot.com or follow her on Twitter @lschlichtman.
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