Painstaking project to preserve pieces of Cobar history

Historian John Collins is undertaking a mammoth project to photograph and
preserve as many of Cobar’s old
newspapers that he can find. John’s hoping Cobar residents who have any old papers will lend them for a short time so he can add them to the growing collection.

In his extensive local research, historian John Collins has found that Cobar’s history just keeps repeating itself.

He said stories about droughts, problems with water, doctors leaving town and the promise of a new airline have all cropped up as regular stories in our local newspapers over time.

John’s been reading about these common  events, along with some out of the ordinary happenings such as how in 1940 the local swimming club decided to hold their swimming carnival at the Open Cut, as the facilities were better than the Mine Tank!

“Today’s swimmers never had it so good,” John commented.

“In 1951 the Council was concerned about the lack of beer in Cobar,” John recounted another interesting article he found.

“The Mayor, Alderman Maidens, referred to the inadequate supply of beer into Cobar and was supported by all the councillors and it endorsed a motion that something be done about it.”

John also reports an article appeared in a newspaper in 1965 about a well-known businessman, Bill Brennan, who had penned a sharply worded letter defending Cobar’s immorality after a city journalist cast doubts on the town.

“Gutter journalism isn’t anything new!”  John said.

John’s found this information and lots more as part of a painstakingly long newspaper archiving project that he’s been doing in his spare time.

He plans to create a digital archive of all of Cobar’s newspapers dating back to Cobar’s first paper, The Cobar Herald which was founded by Thomas Mathews in 1879.

He said while the online library Trove archives allows people to access information from newspapers from 1899 to 1935, it’s after that that it’s hard to digitally access local information.

John said the Cobar Shire Library had a good collection of local newspapers from 1947 up to the mid 1980s which the museum now has.

“I have been through them four or five times and some of them are now so fragile they are falling apart.”

So that history is not lost, John’s been individually photographing each page of each edition of each newspaper that he comes across.

He estimates he’s taken about 7,000 photos to date.

“My reason for doing this project is to make the old papers accessible for people doing historical and family history research,” John told The Cobar Weekly.

“So far I have copied all the 1950s, with the exception of 1958, all the 1960s and the 1970s.

“It’s not a professional job, most of the papers are bound and can’t be removed and are hard to copy,” he said.

John said it’s a big project and it can at times be boring.

“The four things one needs to maintain interest are: enthusiasm, light, time and an understanding wife!

“The understanding wife I take for granted, the other three things are sometimes hard to find,” he said.

John’s also putting a lot of the information he finds into a data-base.

“I take note of important things happening, including weddings and obituaries.

“It’s not everyone’s cup of tea but I think it’s a good project which will benefit future historians.

“However, I accept that one day it will probably be all on line… but until then?”

John is hoping if anyone has any copies of old Cobar newspapers, like some they have found when they have pulled up carpet, or uncovered in old boxes stored in the shed, or perhaps among some cherished old items they inherited from grandma, that they might lend them to him.

“All I want is to photograph them,” John said.

“The world is changing so quickly if we don’t record our history it may be too late!

John said he was also pleased to hear The Cobar Weekly’s plans to begin digitising copies of the newspaper dating back to the newspaper’s beginnings in 1986.

“That’s about 20 years worth that I won’t have to worry about!” he said.

The Weekly is currently seeking grant funding to help undertake the massive project, which will see around 1,000 paper copies dating from 1986 through to 2009 scanned and digitally archived.