Newcastle’s history deserves protection

August 2, 2012

By Contributor

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As the city of Newcastle looks to celebrate its 18th anniversary of incorporation at this year’s Newcastle Days with the historically fueled theme “Return to Newcastle,” there’s never been a more apt time to really dig in and explore what it means to live here.

There is arguably no better example of the home-grown Newcastle experience than 94-year-old resident Milt Swanson.

Many people may not know that much of Newcastle’s invaluable history, including photos, materials and maps, has been collected and stored by Swanson in his home.

The collection includes coal-mining equipment and tools, 100-year-old maps of the area, photos of Newcastle’s people, a moonshine still used during Prohibition, desks from the former Newcastle school, and even Newcastle coal itself, the very foundation of the town when the fuel was discovered in the area in 1863.

Other historically significant artifacts and photos are scattered throughout the basements of members of the Newcastle Historical Society.

To say this is a gross underutilization of these items is an understatement, yes, but more than that, it’s a detriment to each of us that where these items will go for future use is, at this point, undecided.

Members of the historical society hope the Newcastle Library will become a place where some of these items can be dusted off and viewed by the public, but more can — and should — be done to preserve these treasures before it’s too late.

Mayor Rich Crispo has begun to approach businesses to gauge their interest in displaying certain artifacts or photos for public use, and the city provides a free space to the historical society to hold their meetings.

That’s a good start, but we implore city leadership, business owners and residents alike to take an interest in the tangible benefits of understanding where we’re from, why we’re here and how our history will affect our future.

Budgetary limitations loom large for financial consideration from the city, but a coordinated voluntary effort from the public under city leadership could go a long way in this instance.

If that means facilitating a citywide donation drive or seeking grant money to ensure the items are properly preserved and catalogued, let’s start that conversation in a meaningful way.

The damage or loss of these items would not only be a devastating blow to Newcastle’s present, but it would continue to be a disservice to the many generations of Newcastle residents to come.

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