Archives of county’s history preserved locally
Records and photos from the past four decades are housed at CSM
In early January 2016, the Maryland Independent underwent many changes due to ownership changes and the longtime Waldorf office was downsized to its current location, a smaller office in White Plains.
After the paper was purchased by Adams Publishing Group LLC (APG), a media company based on the Eastern Shore, the new office couldn’t house the decades of physical newspaper archives and related materials.
Anna Kephart, the coordinator of the Southern Maryland Studies Center (SMSC) at the College of Southern Maryland (CSM), was contacted about the opportunity to house the collection so it could remain in the county and in safe hands.
Kephart quickly set up a series of site visits to evaluate the materials. The SMSC collects and protects archival material related to the region, and the Maryland Independent’s stash was a treasure trove. Wearing a mask to protect herself from potential mold spores and a camping headlamp to light the way, Kephart climbed up and down stairs and peered into stacks of materials, discovering that the endangered collection included hundreds of bound volumes of not just the Maryland Independent, but also The Enterprise, St. Mary’s Beacon, Flightline, The Calvert Recorder and other newspapers, as well as photo negatives, contact sheets, CDs of archived photos and a myriad of other paper records collected over the years that told the story of Southern Maryland’s history.
“I was overwhelmed,” Kephart said in a news release of the undertaking. She realized the amount of collected materials was too much for the SMSC to house.
“It would have doubled our current holdings,” she said. “It was not feasible.”
Parts of the collection were able to be salvaged locally. The staff believed the SMSC could house the boxes and boxes of photo contact sheets with accompanying negatives, as well as the large envelopes stuffed with photos that had been printed for use in the paper, CDs of archived photos and other miscellaneous papers like fair books and story notes that Kephart deemed particularly valuable. The collection included photos of decades of county fairs, Jaycees projects, first days of school, championship basketball games and all the other events that make up the histor y of the county.
“But it wasn’t just about what’s in it for us. It was about how can we find homes for the remainder before it’s too late,” Kephart said, remembering she felt “immense pressure” to save the bound copies of the newspapers before they were lost forever. So, she also worked with archivist contacts throughout the state to help find homes for the remainder of the materials.
The bound copies of The Enterprise were already slated to be moved to St. Mary’s College of Maryland (SMCM), where they were combined with other bound copies from The Enterprise office, an effort coordinated by Jason Babcock, a reporter anxious to save the volumes. The SMCM library now houses a collection of bound copies of The Enterprise from 1952 to 2015 and bound copies of the St. Mary’s Beacon from 1957 to 1982.
Copies of The Calvert Recorder were taken by the Calvert County Historical Society, and the bound copies of the Maryland Independent went to the Maryland State Archives, together with several additional titles. Kephart said the SMSC maintains a microfilm run from 1874 to the present of the Maryland Independent at the center’s La Plata Campus location for those unable to travel to Annapolis to use bound volumes of the Maryland Independent for research.
Though the process of preserving the Maryland Independent’s photography materials won’t be completed for several months, they are safe.
“We are grateful for Anna’s hard work and for her to recognize the value of these archives,” Rob Perry, editor of the Maryland Independent, said. “The Studies Center is now home to this collection and is accessible to all Charles County residents and history enthusiasts.”
The space and the effort required to protect the Maryland Independent collection is worth it, Kephart said. The newspaper materials protected span 40 years of the county’s history and provide a particularly objective overall view of the community.
“It’s like a core sample,” Kephart said. “Many decades from now, it’s going to provide a really, richly detailed picture of life in the 80s and 90s in Southern Maryland.”
“As a community newspaper that has been serving Charles County since 1872, we record the county’s history with each edition we publish,” Perry said. “It is important that we document the growth and development of the community around us, and newspapers play a vital role in that regard. We take our role seriously and hope the community realizes the value of our role, and seeing the archives at the studies center is tangible proof of that importance.”
Thousands of images taken by Gary Smith, a longtime Maryland Independent photographer from 1985 until his death in early 2009, were also preserved by the college. In addition to the paper’s photographer, Smith was a photography instructor at CSM and to honor his death, an exhibit consisting of his work and dedication to the area, called “Ordinary days, extraordinary moments: Charles County through the Lens of Gary Smith,” was on display from June through August 2009 at CSM. The exhibit was then donated to SMSC.
For more information on the Maryland Independent archives and photo collection, call 301-934-7606, email email@example.com or go to http://www.csmd.edu/ community/southern-maryland-studies-center/.
Anna Kephart, coordinator of the Southern Maryland Studies Center, stands by some of the boxes and boxes of Maryland Independent photography materials that she helped rescue. The collection is now part of the Southern Maryland Studies Center at the College of Southern Maryland.
Anna Kephart, coordinator of the Southern Maryland Studies Center, documents one of her first site visits to the former Maryland Independent office.