Libraries have long employed book curses to protect their volumes, and the State Research Library is no exception! However, instead of calling upon ravens to pluck out the thieves’ eyes, ours invoke honor, history, and money.
Mulford Winsor, State Librarian from 1932-1956, affixed this warning to newspaper folio volumes kept at the State Library, noting they are “compiled and bound at considerable expense of time, labor, and money.” Winsor was active in newspaper work as well as politics. As State Librarian, he developed the newspaper collection for “all investigators, research workers and historians who may have need of it.”
Ironically, the changing nature of preservation and access would make such measures unnecessary. The warning correctly notes “The pages become brittle with age, and are easily broken.” But, to preserve the newspapers for the future generations, State Library staff have had to disobey many, many of these printed warnings.
Unbinding and cutting apart the volumes is the first step in microfilming and digitizing newspapers. Researchers who have seen microfilm of bound pages, with important details swallowed up in the bound crease of the page, know why. Collators over the years have encountered stitched bindings, and newspapers held together with staples as thick as carpenters’ nails. At first the papers were merely microfilmed for preservation and access, but beginning in 2004, the National Digital Newspaper Program began funding digitization of the microfilm, which the State Research Library has participated in since 2007, leading to the Arizona Digital Newspaper Program, where researchers can enjoy what those massive newspaper folios protected—without the threat of a curse!