A four-foot high column of newspapers sits in the San Juan Bautista Historical Society’s Luck Museum. The stack contains 51 years of the San Juan Mission News, the weekly newspaper once published in San Juan Bautista. Each year of the weekly publication is individually wrapped in brown paper. Each brown parcel is marked with its year of publication. The latest is 1969. The earliest is 1918.
Combined, these newspapers, wrapped and stacked in a corner of the Luck Museum, are a tapestry woven on a weekly basis by the townspeople of San Juan Bautista as they lived their lives individually and as a community during a major portion of the 20th Century. It is a colorful, intricate, and delicate tapestry, a tapestry that, fortunately, has been safely preserved for decades, a tapestry that needs to be preserved for decades longer.
The collection is a gift to the San Juan Bautista Historical Society from Janet Lamb Wilson and Everett Wilson of San Jose. Janet is the daughter of Ed and Marj Lamb, the husband and wife team who published the newspaper from 1940 until it closed in 1969. The materials were stored for over forty years in a shop behind the Lamb residence on Second Street in San Juan Bautista. The property was sold after Marj Lamb’s death in 2012 requiring the Wilsons to relocate the materials. Feeling that the collection should remain in San Juan Bautista, they gifted it to the Historical Society.
“It’s important that Ed and Marj Lamb be recognized for the contribution they made to this community over many years,” the Wilsons said. “The continued relevance of the newspaper is important to us.”
Published on a weekly basis, the paper and the husband and wife team who published it, “were considered the voice and conscience of San Juan Bautista,” according to many in the community.
Officially named the Ed and Marj Lamb/Mission News Collection, the gift represents one of the largest, most significant acquisitions in the history of the Historical Society. Along with the 1918-1969 editions of the newspaper, the collection includes the newspaper’s photographic inventory and parts from the 1872 printing press once used for printing the weekly publication. A second partial collection of the paper, thought to be intended for the Bancroft Library at U.C. Berkeley, is also included.
The photographs were taken by Ed Lamb, who in addition to being the publisher of the local newspaper, was the judge at the local justice court and an accomplished photographer. The photographs include images of individual townspeople, iconic street scenes, community events, and panoramas of the town as it developed over the middle of the 20th Century. Many are as noteworthy for their artistic value as for their historical value.
The Historical Society plans to open the 1918 editions of the newspaper during a public event to be held later this year. In addition, copies of the newspaper itself and digital images from the photographic collection will be exhibited at a citywide open-house this fall.
Ultimately, all 51 years of local history will be placed in archival boxes and stored in the Luck Library/Museum complex. The photographic film negatives will be digitized, cataloged, and archived as part of the Historical Society’s Digital San Juan Bautista Project.
The project is a commitment by the Historical Society to preserve the social fabric of the community for future generations. It is a commitment of both time and money. Members of the Historical Society, all volunteers, have committed extensive time and energy to the preservation of this valuable community resource, but more is needed.
Each year of the newspaper needs to be stored in a separate archival box, and each box needs to be stored on appropriate shelving in a secure location. The cost of archival boxes alone is expected to exceed $2500. At this time, the total cost of assuring the preservation of these materials is unknown, but it’s not something the Historical Society can accomplish alone.
For those committed to preserving print media in the digital age and for those committed to preserving the written record of daily life in San Juan Bautista during the first half of the 20th Century, now’s the time to step-up. Anyone interested in volunteering their time or contributing to financial costs of the project should contact the San Juan Bautista Historical Society by email at [email protected]