A $25,000 donation, sufficient to bring the digitization of all Sarpy County’s newspapers up to 1980, has been received by the Sarpy County Museum.
Ben Justman, executive director of the museum, said Bellevue resident Delores Baines made the donation in memory of her husband, John. The gift will enable a huge leap forward in the museum’s effort to preserve permanently the history of Sarpy County as recorded in more than 100 years of newspapers.
Justman said the museum had been making slow but steady progress turning fading, and in some cases crumbling news pages into digital files that will live forever. Copies of the Bellevue Guide and Bellevue Press from the 1940s and 1950s, as well as copies of the Papillion Times and Gretna newspapers reaching back more than 100 years will now be safely preserved in digital form, he said.
“Without these historic documents, our access into the past would be very limited, or in some instances completely cut off,” Justman wrote in the museum’s newsletter.
Given the number of pages that must be digitized, Justman said it will take at least several months before they are preserved. A particular benefit of the donation is that the oldest and most fragile newspaper pages will now be saved.
Newspapers published after 1980, which are are kept at the museum, will be digitized as funds allow.
Baines, 90, said she read in the Bellevue Leader the museum needed funds to preserve the newspapers and felt motivated, as she believed her husband would have been, to help preserve the history of Bellevue, where she was born in 1928. She said her husband, John, worked as a car salesman in the Omaha area while she spent many years working in offices at the Omaha Stockyards.
He died last year at the age of 94.
Baines said she made a similar donation to the Bellevue Little Theatre where she serves as an emeritus member of the board of directors and worked as a volunteer at the theater from 2000 to 2010.
“We are a quiet family,” she said. “We’ve stayed in the background, but I thought this was a way for our family to help. I have money to live on, and I don’t suppose I will live much longer, so I thought this would be a helpful thing to do.”