Saving Times: Newspaper’s former archivist opens North County Times cabinets to local historical societies

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Saving Times: Newspaper’s former archivist opens North County Times cabinets to local historical societies

Scott Allison

Scott Allison

Scott Allison

Lucy Berk pulls archived files related to housing and local laws in Rancho Bernardo at the North County Times building in Escondido on Dec. 13.

Ernesto Lopez

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North County historian Lucy Berk has a big task at hand. She is digging up paper files of the Times Advocate archives from 1983 to 1995 and distributing them to local historical societies.

Berk worked at the newspaper as an archivist during that time frame, before its merger with The North County Blade-Citizen to form the North County Times. She helped put the collection together, which consists of 10 four-drawer file cabinets and several three-drawer ones.

With the purchase of the North County Times by U-T San Diego and the sale of the Escondido building, the archives were in limbo.

“The U-T does not want them,” Berk told the North Coast Current. “All their research material is digitized and is not important to their mission to digitize (the Times Advocate archives).

“The archives contain an extreme amount of regional history and they are a really deep resource for researchers in the future,” she added.

Merrie Monteagudo, U-T San Diego librarian, said the Union-Tribune’s administration planned to place the archives in storage at its Mission Valley campus but she didn’t think it would be the best idea.

It was then when Monteagudo said she contacted Berk to coordinate the distribution of the archives.

“We wanted to make sure (the archives) were recognized as treasure,” Monteagudo said. “When a newspaper gets taken over, the archives are the last thing discussed; they become stuff someone has to move.”

Berk jumped at the opportunity to see the collection of archives she helped build become accessible to the community.

In late November, she emailed all her contacts at historical societies and museums to invite them to browse through the archives and take the paper files for their respective communities.

“These are my babies and I want to see them go to their different nests throughout the county,” Berk said.

Many responded, and they have joined Berk at the North County Times building every Tuesday and Thursday since Dec. 6.

Peggy Rossi of the Rancho Bernardo Historical Society said she accessed the archives on Dec. 13, and pulled clippings on business and housing development, growth and other topics of interest to her organization.

“To have these archives is important historically for us,” Rossi said. “We really didn’t have clippings from this specific time frame; it’s going to fill a gap for us.”

Jeff Frye of the Poway Historical and Memorial Society, who also browsed the archives on Dec. 13, said he responded to Berk because it’s important for future generations to have these files to look back.

He said he is grateful Berk reached out to him and others.

“Everything we pulled for our collection will help create a clear picture of past times in Poway,” Frye said.

“If Lucy had not put out word for people to come by and rescue the pieces, they could possibly have ended up in a shredder or recycled. She is being really heads-up about this,” he added.

Monteagudo said she is also grateful Berk has taken on this “difficult” task.

“Lucy knows what is in the archives and she knows the value of them,” Monteagudo said. “She is a treasure for North County historians. Without her expertise it would not have been possible to put this project together so quickly.”

Monteagudo added that U-T San Diego has kept microfilm of the stories in the archives and hopes to digitize them in the future, as were all archives of the U-T.

As in many publications, the Times Advocate library was created as an archive for reporters. It was a point of reference that housed all topics and materials they needed for background, Berk explained.

She also said the archives contain a few years of North County Times clippings, of years before the newspaper began digitizing its work. The archives also contain photographs.

Berk is the widow of Bill Fark, also a North County historian who covered local theater and arts for more than 25 years for the Times Advocate and North County Times. He died in early 2010.

Ernesto Lopez is a San Diego freelance writer

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