Rare copies of Three Wire Winter Steamboat history magazine find new digital history

Tom Ross

— Among four special tax-funded historic preservation grants totaling $24,360 approved by Routt County commissioners Tuesday is a project that promises to restore the voices of mid-20th century pioneers.

The digitization of the Three Wire Winter magazine, which flourished among Steamboat Springs High School history students in the 1970s and 1980s, will create an online database that will not only reproduce articles and photographs about historic figures in the early years of Routt County, but also connect to audio files captured during the interviews, which later became the basis for articles produced by the students.

The ambitious project (there are 255 interviews to be digitized) is being undertaken by the Tread of Pioneers Museum, one of the historic four history museums, and Historic Routt County. It is to be funded by .3 mills of property tax approved by county voters in 2003 in collaboration with Bud Werner Memorial Library.

“The majority of those people interviewed are not alive right now,” Museum Executive Director Candice Bannister said. “This starts a partnership for digitization of other items in our collection.”

The library has original copies of Three Wire Winter, which was spearhead by now-retired history teacher Bill McKelvie, in locked cases in its collection. They are for library use only and cannot be checked out. Digitization will dramatically expand availability.

Placing the Three Wire Winter materials on the Internet through the non-profit Marmot network, in which the library participates, will result in virtually global distribution of the historical materials through Marmot’s highly searchable database.

The matching, $6,630 Museum Capacity Building Grant, initially vetted and approved by the county’s Museum and Heritage Fund Advisory Board and endorsed Tuesday by the Board of Commissioners, comes from a fund representing 10 percent of annual property tax revenues generated by the tax annually. Overall, the tax generates more than $200,000 annually, though the amount floats with county property valuation.

It will be dedicated to hiring a third-party company to transcribe the oral interviews, a critical piece of the database for members of the public, according to Digital Services Librarian Alysa Selby.

In listening to samples of the audio files, Selby said, she was struck by how dated, or even quaint, some of the interviews sounded. But that’s a good thing.

“Our community has changed tremendously, and we don’t want to lose sight of that,” Selby said. “We’ve wanted to start digitizing local objects and keep them on the library Web page. The one that kept coming up over and over was Three Wire Winter.”

Transcriptions are a key to public access to the audio files, Selby said, because they allow people to search for a reference to a family name or property, for example. References in the transcript will be linked to the oral record and time stamped for easy searching, she added.

Associate Reference Librarian John Major observed that, increasingly, preservation implies digitization.

“If you really want to preserve (documents) into the 21st century, it needs to be digitally, as well as physically,” Major said.

Other grants awarded Tuesday include:

• $10,260 to Friends of Crossans M&A Market to help build a new front porch on the historic grocery and future home of town of Yampa government offices. It is due to undergo the next phase of historic re-construction beginning this winter

• $5,000 to the Northwest Colorado Heritage Program for informational signs to be placed in front of the restored More Barn and Yock Cabin on Pine Grove Road in Steamboat Springs, as well as the former Royal Hotel site in Yampa.

• $2,470 toward a new reference center on the main level of the Hayden Heritage Center

• A $1,500 request from the Hahn’s Peak Area Historic Society to help with the purchase of a wood splitter to support firewood sales which, in turn, help fund operations, was not recommended for approval by MAHFAB because it was not deemed to fit the definition of historic preservation.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

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