Anne Woosley, executive director of the Arizona Historical Society, heard from Gannett Co., Inc. on Friday afternoon, after my final post on the David-Goliath size disagreement between the major repository of Arizona history and the nation’s largest owner of media properties. Woosley sent me an e-mail Monday saying she’d heard from Gannett’s Kate Marymont, who reiterated what she told me in a phone interview Friday: That there has been some sort of misunderstanding because Gannett never made any real agreement to cede 139 years of archives to AHS.
In her e-mail to Woosley, Marymont says the proposed cost to Gannett of about $99,000 for supplies, part-time archivists and librarians, etc., is “too steep for us to consider you as the primary repository.” (An earlier post used the estimate of about $95,000, based on figures given to GodBlogging by Woosley.) Marymont also said issues such as reproduction rights and copy rights have to be worked out before a permanent home for the archives can be found. She said a team at Gannett “is working to figure out how to preserve the Tucson Citizen archives and make them available to the citizens of Arizona” and that the team is reviewing “how we might share some artifacts and archives” with AHS. So, as I said in one of the earlier posts, perhaps this is all about the money, and not so much about what might be best for the archives or a lack of time to deal with the request from AHS.
Marymont ends with an assurance to AHS, which might not be that assuring to history geeks and includes a line about protecting “the value of the content” for Gannett which makes it seem again that (say it with me) it is all about money:
Please know that we are committed to preserving the archives. We want to
make them available to residents while also protecting the value of the
content to our company.
I do think there are ways that we can share some material with you. As our
options become clearer I will be in touch.
Thank you for your deep attachment to the Tucson Citizen and its archive.
It is, as you eloquently stated in the proposal, one of Arizona’s most
important, intact historical collections.
We respect that and will guard it carefully.
The reason that might not be assuring to those dedicated to preserving history is because it of the mention of “sharing”. Most museums want complete collections, and find the parcelling out of bits and pieces a bit counter-intuitive. Woosley said as much in her response to Gannett.
Crucial for preserving its historical value is keeping the archive whole.
The value to history, to the community, to researchers and the general
public is that the Tucson Citizen archive represents an intact chronicle of
Arizona Territory, Westward expansion, Arizona Statehood, and the community
in the modern era to 2009. To have the archive parceled out among a number
institutions/organizations would sadly diminish its value as a powerful
corpus of historical information.
Woosley also told Marymont that the proposed costs – which, if you’re new to this story, are explained in detail here and include information about Gannett’s profit last year – were just a starting point, but negotiations never proceeded (see this) because Gannett never responded to the proposal. She asks: “If, indeed, the proposed amount to cover transfer and processing of the collections is “too steep”, what is more agreeable?” (I’m not sure she’ll get an answer, but you have to give her props for trying in the face of prior rejection.)
Woosley also explains to Marymont that, as “one of this nation’s major historical societies and largest repositories
of western historical museum and archival collections,” the AHS is sensitive to and aware of the “complexities of copyrights, access, loan, usage, reproduction rights, donor restrictions and so forth.”
We are completely open to discussing with the Gannett Company any conditions governing the Tucson Citizen archive and would welcome the opportunity to come to a mutually satisfactory agreement.
Here’s hoping something can be worked out. But in the meantime, Marymont said on Friday that the archives are currently open to Tucson residents and researchers in the now-abandoned newsroom of the Tucson Citizen. Those wanting to visit them just have to call 573-4255.