Anacortes was once called the “Venice of the Pacific” by 19th century historian and writer Frances Fuller Victor. And, if things had turned out differently, the Skagit County town on Fidalgo Island might have become the busiest port in the Pacific Northwest and the economic capital of Washington.
The Anacortes Museum is jointly funding the work to digitize microfilm of the old newspapers with financial support from Anacortes Museum Foundation and the Skagit Community Foundation. The project is in partnership with the Washington State Library, which is an arm of the Secretary of State’s office.
As part of a statewide initiative, other cities around Washington are also working to preserve and share their local newspapers, including, so far, the Eatonville Dispatch and Cashmere Valley Record.
Shawn Schollmeyer works for the Washington State Library, directing the effort to pursue projects like what’s happening in Anacortes and hosting online archives of many newspapers from the state and territory’s earliest years. Washington’s own homegrown initiative to preserve local papers came after a federal program funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities ended five years ago, though some funding for Washington’s current work comes from the federal Library Services Technology Act.
Schollmeyer says that the success of the projects she’s been involved with depend heavily on each community stepping forward and being passionate about preserving and sharing historic newspapers. She also says that along with local museums or historical societies, the publishers of local papers can really make a difference in these preservation efforts, and the partnerships can make a difference for everybody in a particular community.