Celebrating 125 years with section, museum exhibit

Feb. 23, 2014 @ 02:19 PM

Happy birthday to us!

As many of you know, I’ve been irrepressibly exuberant over this newspaper’s coming 125th birthday. Wednesday is that day – the very first, four-page issue of the Durham Sun hit the muddy streets of Durham Feb, 26, 1889.

Since then, this company and its antecedents have brought the news to Durham residents – some 6,000 then and nearly 250,000 now – on some 45,656 days. Frankly, only a handful of Durham businesses can boast that longevity.

This Wednesday, we’ll bring you a commemorative special section celebrating those 125 years. We’ll revisit some of the monumental headlines of that period, look back at events large and small that characterized our growth as a city, and give you a look back at some of the photographs that captured our most memorable moments.

I hope you’ll look for that edition.

But if you can’t wait – and even if you can, well after Wednesday’s special edition – you can get a really neat glimpse of our past at the Museum of Durham History’s History Hub downtown.

I can’t say enough enthusiastic things about the compact but exciting exhibit that the museum’s executive director, Katie Spencer, has fashioned.

You’ll see some of our more historic front pages on display. That’s a look at journalism as we practiced it for much of the past century.

 But, as they say on late-night television as, there’s more.

The museum’s volunteers dug into the microfilm archives of our newspaper to give visitors inside those front pages. 

The pages give a feel for the times. A front page from December 1941, for example, tells the tale of a nation suddenly plunged into total war – and carrying on as best we could with normal business.

“KNOX REVEALS ONLY ONE BATTLESHIP LOST,” the top headline proclaimed.

And just underneath, “ROSE BOWL CONTEST WILL BE PLAYED HERE” That would be, of course, the only time the Rose Bowl has not been played on the West Coast

I find just looking at the juxtaposition of events chilling – and a reminder of how, throughout most of our history, The Durham Sun, The Durham Morning Herald and our merged modern version, The Morning Herald, have captured both international news and the impact here at home.

A neat aspect of the museum exhibit is a touch-screen in front of the framed front pages of great moments past. Click on that, and you’ll see a magnified excerpt from inside a day’s paper. Another click, and you’ll get to see a typed, more legible version of that item.

While the headlines are apocalyptic, the inside information is often quotidian but fascinating, like the short item that reveals “new election precincts.”
I know I am biased but I think the exhibit is fascinating.

We’ve enjoyed a strong partnership with the museum, and I’m grateful it chose to focus on our landmark birthday. It is not mere coincidence that our partnership over the past year – This Week in Durham History – winds down today. It launched last year on our 124th birthday, with the idea it would be a prelude to the 125th.

A century plus 25 years is quite a long time. I’m humbled to be a part of a sliver of it for the past nine years.

I hope you’ll enjoy our special section on Wednesday, and that you’ll take in the Museum of Durham History’s exhibit in the next few weeks.