Two vigilant Great Falls residents have saved important historical records collected over the course of 135 years in the Great Falls Tribune reporters’ library.
The Tribune downsized operations by moving its printing production to Helena and relocating its staff, after which the Tribune building went up for sale. Research files in the newspaper’s library within the building were on the verge of getting moved away or destroyed.
When Owen Robinson saw the building was for sale, he contacted Grady Higgins, a Tribune employee. They set about working with the publication’s parent company, Gannett, to keep those files in the community.
Robinson became aware of the vast library of historical records 20 years earlier, when he had stopped by the Tribune to learn more about his family’s business located in Great Falls. He learned the general public, for practical reasons, did not have access to the library.
“When I saw the sign the Tribune building was being sold, I remembered the extensive reporters’ library and the fact that they employed a librarian to keep it up to date. I felt that the library had to be saved for general public access,” said Robinson.
Former Tribune reporter and librarian Barbara Mittal, along with other reporters who had remained in Great Falls after retirement, determined what was worth saving.
“As earlier Tribune librarians had done, I referenced the articles in each day’s newspaper by updating the card index and filed stories and photographs, so they could be found,” Mittal said.
Files for the Great Falls Leader, which had been the community’s evening paper for many years, were also in the library.
Robinson funded the transfer from the Tribune building to the Great Falls History Museum—moving approximately 30, four-drawer filing cabinets filled with newspaper articles, photos, microfilm, and CDs, along with an extensive card index.
Recently the Great Falls/Cascade County Historical Preservation Advisory Commission recognized Robinson and Higgins for their successful efforts in keeping these records in Great Falls.
“Owen started this process while he was serving his second term on the Great Falls History Museum’s board of directors, though the majority of the work happened after he termed out. We are grateful for such a loyal supporter of the History Museum and preservation,” said Kristi Scott, Executive Director of the Great Falls History Museum. “The importance of public access to archival collections like this cannot be overstated and is an integral part of our mission.”
Scott said they will continue to work hard raising funds to rehouse the collection in preservation-safe folders and materials and to digitize the research files, so the public can use the resource.
“We will need donations and will dedicate a lot of our own time and will be looking for volunteers beginning in January.”
Anyone who would like to donate to this multi-year project may call Kristi Scott at 406-452-3462. MSN