One part of the preparations that I consider of particular importance (is that enough "p" words for ya?) is research into the church's history. If we're going to celebrate 60 years, it's good to know and talk about what happened in those years. So parishioners Jo Leeming (of the St. Michael and All Angels Vestry), Ila Abernathy (of the parish's Guatemala Project) and I procured a key to the church's archives, which are stored in the Womble Library. We oohed and ahhed over our discoveries there, pulled out several of the more important notebooks and envelopes, and brought them to my office at church. This afternoon was the first chance I've had since then to take a look.
I only got through half a notebook, but it was mostly really important stuff. There were pictures from the church's construction, dated September, 1953. Two of them were dated September 14, 1953, exactly 60 years before the day I scanned them on my office computer:
This is the interior of the church, with a man looking up at the eastern wall. The walls had not yet been plastered, and the floor had not yet been laid. But the place was already rather beautiful.
This appears to be a view from the main entrance, looking north 90 feet to where the sanctuary would be. The white cross seen here was an opening in the original north wall, into which the stained glass cross would be added. The northern end of the church has since been expanded twice, once in 1964 to add the transept (the size sections in front) and apse (a place for the high altar), and again in 1998 to add the organ chamber behind the sanctuary. The glass cross is now in the western wall, near where the choir sits.
There were more photos from later in the month, but it's clear that the building wasn't finished by Michaelmas, 1953. The dedication and first service was held Sunday, November 29th, 1953. There was a newspaper photo of that, along with a few color snapshots. Another small batch of photos showed the church as of the day after Christmas, 1953.
I also found an expansion feasibility study from 1959, apparently printed on ditto master or mimeograph. If you're under 40 years old, you probably don't know what those reproduction technologies were like, but I used to struggle with them in my high school days. Even in 1981, when the church printed a little black and white newsletter thingy titled "God Gave Me a Parish With Guts!", the pictures in it were dark and dot matrix-y. The newest thing I saw was a printout of an email from 1999, in which the original rector, Father John Clinton Fowler, wrote about acquiring a used pipe organ for the church, late in his tenure. It only cost $200 plus installation, but appears to have lasted only a few years before it fell apart. The replacement organ, dating from 1959 and originally built for a Cincinnati church, cost many orders of magnitude more than that to buy and install, but it's one of the best organs in this part of the country, so there.
But there you go. Even in 1999, for an important historical document, the way to preserve the data was to print it out. I started retyping the thing as I was scanning the photos, because it's not long enough to fuss with OCR for, even if I had a decent OCR program.
St. Michael and All Angels Church as of December 26, 1953.
This innocent photo killed my index page tonight.
And it's not as though current technology is so much more reliable than what they had in 1953 or 1959 or 1981. I already told you about my recent malware problems, and I can't get my new Family Tree Maker program to run for than a few seconds before crashing. More to the point, I tried to add a few of the images I found today to the church website, which is hosted on Godaddy. No matter how carefully I typed or copy-pasted the image's URL, no matter how many times I edited files to make them shorter, uploaded them again and gave them less problematic file names, my edited web page refused to display them. I had to let the church blog host the photos. At one point I added one measly photo to the church's main web page and saved it, only for the whole page to have been randomly ruined by my SeaMonkey Composer program. It's not the first time this has happened, either. Tonight, all the < and > marks were replaced with the HTML markup that makes them not be HTML tags any more. Last time, which was only a week or so ago, all the image URLs suddenly pointed to my hard drive instead of the web site, even though they were all previously in there with the full web addresses. Both times, I had to grab a Google cache version of the page, clean it up and repost it. I should know better, and always keep a backup before I edit a page.
The back of the church, December 1953.
It's going to be worth it, though, right? If I can just get all the best of this old stuff scanned, uploaded and displayed, on web pages and pdfs that are consistently readable and glitch-free, then, THEN, we'll have the best of old and new.