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Finding old treasures

SCV Historical Society members work hard to preserve items in archive

Posted: October 3, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 3, 2012 2:00 a.m.

Volunteer Jamey Dinkel, director of archiving, examines materials that will be available for research in the new Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society library in the Pardee House at Heritage Junction in Newhall.

Surrounded by weathered books and unexplored boxes, the archivists at the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society are chasing history page by page for their upcoming library at the Heritage Junction Historic Park in Newhall.

Around the same time construction started on the 30,000-square-foot Newhall public library down the street, volunteer archivists began the tedious process of collecting and preserving the Historical Society’s somewhat quirky collection of books, magazines and documents donated by Santa Clarita residents over the years.

“We dedicate a lot of time to finding, protecting and preserving,” said Jamey Dinkel, director of archiving for the Historical Society. “It’s a full-time job. In my own department, there’s probably a decade left of work.”

“It’s worth it to preserve history,” said Evan Decker, 15, a volunteer.

The archivists expect to work for another year until the carefully housed pieces of history are ready for public viewing, Dinkel said.

When finished, the library will find its home in the 1890 Pardee Building, a 2,000-square-foot house with a museum, display room, gift shop and collection of 750 books.

The project runs solely on volunteer hours, donated funds and donated items, making it a product of local involvement.

“We want the public to view and learn and become educated on the history of Santa Clarita,” Decker said.

In the library, Dinkel gently pulled from its shelf a worn Bible the size of an open palm tied together with a thin piece of lace.

Published in 1865, the book belonged to Lillie F. Taylor, wife of Santa Clarita Valley abolitionist Henry Clay Needham in the late 1800s.

Local phonebooks dating back to the 1960s, a “Touring Topics” magazine discussing great books of the age and birth and death records of Newhall residents dating back to the early 1900s cluttered the shelves with a tangible sense of history.

Dinkel’s most prized artifact hangs above her desk. Yellowed by decades, a single page of the Newhall phonebook so faded that the last digit of the year isn’t legible lists local residents from the 1930s.

“These are serious pieces of history,” Dinkel said.

Before beginning the library restoration, the artifacts were spread throughout the property, left for lucky archivists to find in boxes.

Once the items are acquired, archivists take special measures to control for consistent temperature, light and moisture. Special-ordered protection archive boxes keep books and magazines tucked out of harm’s way, Dinkel said.

The lengthy process of cataloguing artifacts and securing quality restoration materials accounts for the prolonged completion date, Dinkel said.

“We will do everything we can to preserve these artifacts,” Dinkel said.

“Not many people know about Santa Clarita history,” Decker said. “My primary goal for the Historical Society is definitely restoration.”


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