Weatherford Democrat

October 4, 2012

Library grant helps document the past

Sally Sexton
CNHI

WEATHERFORD — Christy Bellah isn’t from Parker County, but her love for history and her occupation as a librarian have inspired her to research and archive all things historically for the area.

As the Preserving and Expanding Access to Culture and Heritage Cataloging Librarian, Bellah and two other staff members work tirelessly to maintain, collect and publicize historical information through the PEACH program.

In its second year as a grant-funded program, PEACH has already collected thousands of documents, mostly stored at the Weatherford Public Library, ranging from letters to books to photos and MP3s of oral history, recorded by people talking about life in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

“We already have a huge amount of documentation locked up here from over the years we’ve been collecting,” Bellah said. “You know librarians never give anything up.”

Some of the oldest materials date back to 1847, in a series of letters to Sarah McGratton, whose family inspired the name of McGratton Skate Park.

Through grants, the PEACH project spent its first year using the funds to purchase equipment to better protect the historical articles, purchasing scanners, cameras, sound recorders and more.

“We’re starting to go through what materials had been locked away and scanning or copying them,” Bellah said.

The result, along with efforts from the Azle Memorial Library, East Parker County Library, Millsap Elementary Library and Springtown Public Library, is a variety of microfilm documents, and the PEACH website, www.mypcla.com, which holds digitized versions of the photos, letters receipts and more. By logging on to the site, anyone can view documents through an archive search.

“These are our baby steps of finding things of interest and pulling them out for the public to see,” Bellah said. “Otherwise, nobody knows they’re here.”

With the majority of materials located at the Weatherford Public Library, Bellah said PEACH is always looking for any historical documentation.

“One lady called one time and said she had found an old book by a storage unity, sitting in the grass next to the building,” she said. “She picked it up and brought it in and it turned out to be surveyor’s notes from the 1880s or 1890s. When she saw it, she had the good sense to save it.”

Original documents dropped off may also be returned to owners, as PEACH staff can digitalize the items and send them back to the proper owners.

“We keep discovering more and at some point, we do have to evaluate what we digitalize and post online with regard to what people want to see,” Bellah said. “I can’t imagine we’ll be done [archiving] any time soon, but we try to accomplish our goals for the grant and help publicize these historical records.”