In flipping through a recent issue of Reader’s Digest, which is in no way affiliated with Lighthouse Digest, I noticed a brief mention where they gave a “thumbs up” to a recent report by Heritage Preservation that will hopefully draw public attention to the fact that 190 million books, photos and other items in institutions across America are currently in a decaying state.
The same can be said for historic photographs of lighthouses, photographs of lighthouse keepers, photographs of family members that live and grew up at lighthouses, recorded lighthouse memories, old lighthouse documents, lighthouse artifacts and other related lighthouse items.
Sure there’s lots of lighthouse history tucked away in various places that has been saved. But, I can assure you that much more of our lighthouse history is on the verge of being lost unless we all act now to save it. Some of this is held by small organizations that don’t have the funds to preserve old photos or have never duplicated them. Many have been lost from decay, fire, water damage or even theft. Plus, there is so much out there held by families of the descendants of lighthouse keepers that have no idea that there are lighthouse groups around the country looking for these items.
We are sometimes criticized for wasting space in our magazine asking, if not harping for the public’s help in locating old photographs, memories and documents. We’ve also been criticized by some for constantly asking historical societies and other organizations that have historic lighthouse-related photos and records to make duplicates and send them to us, calling it a cheap shot to grab content for stories, and if we want this stuff, why don’t we hire professionals to go and do the job, after all, we are a for-profit magazine. Thankfully, those that think this way are in a small minority.
All anyone needs to do is look through nearly 15 years of stories in Lighthouse Digest to actually see that we indeed have spent a lot of time and money to locate lighthouse history and we have discovered many stories and photos that might otherwise have been lost forever. Sometimes, we stumble across a story, other times we spend years tracking down leads, sometimes, we even send out letters to hundreds of people in trying to locate a descendant of a particular lighthouse keeper, in hopes that they might have something to share with us, and we are always writing to various preservation groups, museums and lighthouse groups for help. It would be rare to go to a file cabinet somewhere and find all the history on one particular lighthouse.
For the most part, everyone is most helpful when we send out a
specific request. But, without a specific request, very few take the initiative to make duplicates and send them to us and even fewer know we are actually looking for the information.
In the recent tragedies in the Gulf Coast, we saw that many historical societies were totally destroyed and the historical
photos and documents of entire communities have been destroyed and lost forever.
When most people were still wondering if the Internet was really
the future, we were busy posting stories and historic photos as well as current photos on our website, because they are all part of history. These photographs and stories are now saved for all the world to read and learn from, forever. I only wish we had been able to start this earlier. For the past 18 months, we have been in the process of duplicating every historic photograph we have, plus placing many on computer disks and storing one copy in our office and the other copy at a different location. Most are donated to the archives of the American Lighthouse Foundation.
Through the pages of this magazine, we are trying to save through stories and our website as much lighthouse history as we can. There are probably hundreds, if not thousands, of people out there that love lighthouses, that love history, are descendants of lighthouse keepers, or lighthouse collectors that have never heard of Lighthouse Digest and have no idea how vital it is to share what they have and help us preserve it, not just for us, but for everyone, now and into the future. That’s one of the reasons we are always encouraging people to buy gift subscriptions for friends, relatives and libraries. The more people who read about lighthouses, the more history that will be uncovered and saved. Yes, we may be a for-profit business, but our original goal is and has always been to record, save and inform people about today’s modern lighthouse happenings, as well as the stories and history of yesteryears.
It is impossible to do this on our own. We need your ongoing help and support to locate, save and tell the past stories of our lighthouses and the people who lived at them. Plus, we need help with stories on current restoration projects and volunteer efforts, after all, today’s efforts and stories will be tomorrow’s history and is just as important to save, as is the old history.
This story appeared in the
March 2006 edition of Lighthouse Digest Magazine. The print edition contains more stories than our internet edition, and each story generally contains more photographs - often many more - in the print edition. For subscription information about the print edition, click here.
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