As a way to preserve WSMR’s rich history, the Directorate of Public Works Environmental Division’s Cultural Resource Program has initiated a new approach which will preserve 40 years of the range’s historic newspaper issues and make them available for public online access. The newspaper first began publication on March 16, 1950 as “Wind and Sand.” It became The Missile Ranger in 1967.
WSMR Stewardship Archeologist Bill Godby came up with the idea when he learned that issues that date back to the 1950s were stored locally at the Public Affairs Office. The idea to scan and archive the issues had been thought of, but was never possible due to a limited budget. Godby is using an existing contract with Epsilon Systems Inc. to scan and digitize the issues into documents accessible on the internet.
“In the past, the only way to read an old newspaper was to visit your local library,” Godby said. “Fortunately, the internet and the digital age have changed all this and now we have immediate access to historical newspapers, pictures, you name it. It’s the future of historical archiving and research.”
The scanning project will serve to satisfy requirements identified in the National Historic Preservation Act. As WSMR moves forward with new technology and missions, remnants of the past are left behind, including unused and abandoned buildings. As these buildings are demolished a piece of history is lost. To offset the loss, projects like this fall upon the Cultural Resources Program. Godby’s main role is to ensure the Garrison meets Federal Historic Preservation regulations, and projects like this do just that. Funding for projects like this one, and others, including oral histories, information brochures and displays are all provided by IMCOM.
“The newspaper is a wonderful opportunity to reach out to people about WSMR’s history, including the buildings, the missions and most importantly the people that worked at WSMR 65 years ago,” Godby said.
Godby believes there will be a good deal of interest from both former employees and their relatives to revisit the rich WSMR past they were part of. The searchable database will allow for individuals to search for keywords and key dates, a helpful tool for any individual who wishes to conduct research on the history of the range.
“Digitizing the old Range newspapers will open a whole new world for anyone interested in WSMR’s past. From my own experience I can tell you those brittle old papers provide a great deal of information about past projects and how the range operated,” said WSMR Historian Jim Eckles. “The newspaper data may help soften the perception of White Sands as a deadly serious, top secret, no nonsense kind of facility.”
The digitization of the issues also benefits the WSMR museum as museum displays can now utilize electronic and reproduced pictures and articles from the newspaper to further tell the story of the exhibits.
“I am very pleased with what Bill and his crew has done,” said WSMR Museum Director Darren Court. “I think it will be an amazing resource for researchers and other people who are interested in the history of the range. We’re certainly going to be using it a lot.”
Along with gaining historical knowledge of WSMR, visitors can also get a glimpse of what life was like over 50 years ago in Las Cruces through the many local advertisements of businesses long forgotten. “For anyone who lived in Las Cruces I think it brings back that old Las Cruces that people knew,” he said. “For the younger generation this is a past that they really don’t know about and it’s a great way to learn about the Las Cruces their parents and Grand Parents grew up in.”
Historic issues of the Wind and Sands and The Missile Ranger newspaper can be viewed temporarily online at http://www.wsmrhistoric.com/
Further efforts are being made to display the link on the WSMR webpage.
There are still numerous data gaps that Godby hopes can be filled through the public’s efforts. Godby and his team are currently looking for any issues that were published within the 1950s. Godby can be reached at 678-6003 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.