Archives of county’s his­tory pre­served lo­cally

Records and pho­tos from the past four decades are housed at CSM

Maryland Independent - - Front Page -

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 or go to 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.

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