Local history projects are best told through community news sources.
So Mary Butzow wants the St. Joseph community to step up and help.
Butzow grew up in St. Joseph and was best friends with Jean Butler, the daughter of Bob and Barbara Butler, who owned the St. Joseph Record newspaper.
Butzow and Butler have kept in touch through the years as Butler now lives in Denver. Butler told Butzow she wished she had access to the old St. Joseph Record online so she could read her father’s editorials.
Butzow has volunteered at the Champaign County History Museum and asked the museum director, Connor Munson, how this could be accomplished.
“Connor had good contacts at the University of Illinois Library,” Butzow said, “so we got the project going.”
Butzow and the museum are spearheading a project to digitize the St. Joseph Record with editions from Dec. 8, 1894 to 1980. Butzow is scheduled to speak at a Lunch and Learn event sponsored by the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce at 11 a.m. on Thursday at St. Joseph Village Hall.
The physical editions of the paper are currently stored at the Urbana Free Library. The group needs $30,000 to complete the project, and they have raised $5,500. Once they raise $8,000, they can start digitizing two decades of the paper.
To finish the project, organizers said more donations are needed.
“Jean and I would like lots of people to donate modest amounts to the project,” Butzow said. “So far we have had donations from $5 to $1,000, with the average being $100. If 300 people gave $100 or 600 people gave $50 or 1,200 people gave $25, we would meet our goal.”
Butzow said she feels the project is important because so much of the intimate history of small towns is lost when the local paper becomes unavailable.
“While the St. Joseph Record rarely covered national and state news, its pages are rich in personal history of village board meetings, schools, social groups — such as the Lions club and the Ladies clubs — activities of children such as Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, 4-H and Little League,” she said. “School sports and accomplishments were also covered. Mostly it is the rich history of personal lives: births, deaths, weddings, family reunions and accomplishments.”
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