Three Wire Winter digitization achieves new milestone |

Three Wire Winter digitization achieves new milestone

Christine McKelvie
For Steamboat Pilot & Today

Steamboat Springs author Jean Wren spoke to Three Wire Winter student Duncan Craighead during the drought-stricken winter of 1976-77. (Photo courtesy of Tread of Pioneers Museum)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — The voices and images of hundreds of Routt County men and women — pioneers, ranchers, skiers, coal miners, railroad workers, artists, retailers, cowboys, educators and veterans — now travel through the ages and miles to reach a new audience as part of a national digital database.

Alysa Selby, digital services librarian of Bud Werner Memorial Library, calls this latest phase of the Three Wire Winter local history magazine digitization project “hugely ambitious” and exciting.

The magazine was created and published by Steamboat Springs High School teachers and students between 1976 and 1988. Articles and recorded interviews from 20 of its 24 issues are available through the library’s catalog, thanks to a collaborative effort by Bud Werner Memorial Library and Tread of Pioneers Museum. The project will continue until all 24 issues are uploaded.

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The Three Wire Winter online collection at includes stories about Dee Richards, General Robin Olds, Vernon Summer, Dorothy Wither, Thelma West, Gimpy Yeager, Doak Walker, Virginia Andrew, Beulah Combs, Farrington Carpenter, Curtis Zabel, Daisy Anderson and many more. Some of the articles are accompanied by voice recordings, listed under the category “Related Objects.”

Nineteen of those issues also can now be accessed through the Digital Public Library of America, or DPLA, at Selby expects this new connectivity to greatly expand access to the Three Wire Winter collection.

“DPLA began in 2014 with a goal to ‘connect people to the riches held within America’s libraries, archives, museums and other cultural heritage institutions,’” she explained. “Without a central database, people have to know where to go on the internet if they want to locate archived materials. The DPLA website is an endeavor to create an index like you would find in the back of a book, only on a massive national level for digital objects.”

The DPLA site, which is continually adding data, yields information from around the nation, including Steamboat Springs and Routt County.

A recent search with the phrase “country schools” turned up 1,289 articles. Nineteenth on the list was a Three Wire Winter article from spring 1978. Written by Ginger Infanger and Grace May, it features memories of Mad Creek, Mystic, Fly Gulch, Clark and Mount Harris schools from students, teachers and an administrator. Infanger and May compiled their article from interviews with George and Frances Wheeler, Nellie Soash, Ruth Carver, Henry and Ayliffe Zehner, Bill May and Samuel Barbiero.

Students and teachers standing in front of the first school in Steamboat Springs circa 1883 are, left to right, Cushie Suttle, Ida Woolery, May Keller, Lulie Crawford, John Crawford, John Sampson and Oscar Woolery. (Photo courtesy of Tread of Pioneers Museum)

Only 34 articles were listed under “Colorado skiing history.” Near the top, in second place, was Duncan Craighead’s extensive interview with Jean Wren, author of “Steamboat Springs and the Treacherous and Speedy Skee.”

The article, entitled “Skiing — The Way We Were,” was published in 1977 in the fifth issue of Three Wire Winter. It chronicles the evolution of skiing from its early days of being a utilitarian mode of transport to its emergence as a popular modern sport.

The Bud Werner team is dedicated to maintaining the integrity of the articles and providing appropriate credit to the magazine, its authors and photographers, as well as to the Tread of Pioneers Museum, which owns the physical collection.

That is why clicking on the title of a Three Wire Winter article on DPLA takes the reader directly to the local library’s catalog, where the digital collection resides and where one can further connect with the museum. The same result is achieved by entering into a browser.

The entire digitization project and its new connection with the national database has been a labor of love for Selby and other library and museum personnel. Uploading local resources onto DPLA has required numerous steps, and Selby has been involved from the beginning.

First, a regional data hub was required. Selby served on the board when Wyoming and Colorado teamed up in May 2016 to create the Plains to Peaks Collective.

After this hub launched in April 2017, Bud Werner Memorial Library and other members began formatting their data and sending items to the collective, a process that required many months. Even now, as content from Three Wire Winter continues to flow outward, Plains and Peaks reviews all data before passing it along to DPLA.

“All of the hard work is worth it, to allow people across the country access to the voices, stories and photos from this magazine,” Selby said. “Now you don’t have to know where to go on the internet, you can just visit DPLA. It is an enormous boon for students and anyone interested in our local history.”

The Three Wire Winter digitization project began in May 2015. Since its online launch was announced in March 2017, the library has seen strong interest in the collection. In 2018, the website generated 9,509 “outside” visits to the website not initiated by library or museum staff.

“I had always felt that Three Wire Winter contained so many gems that were hidden away unless you had copies of the magazine or access to the interviews,” Selby said. “Now we are sharing our stories with the world. I can’t tell you the joy I feel that this content is accessible far beyond our walls.

“In all my 20 years here at Bud Werner Memorial Library, my two favorite digital projects have been the Colorado Historic Newspapers collection and Three Wire Winter.”

Christine McKelvie is a former Hayden Valley Press and Steamboat Pilot journalist and hospital public relations director. She met her husband, longtime Steamboat Springs High School teacher and Three Wire Winter co-founder Bill McKelvie, in 1976 when reporting on the launch of the local history magazine.

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