July 20, 2018

Studies Center Begins Archiving Materials

Anna Kephart, coordinator of the Southern Maryland Studies Center, stands near some of the boxes and boxes of Maryland Independent photography materials that she helped rescue. The collection is now part of the Southern Maryland Studies Center at the College of Southern Maryland.

College of Southern Maryland’s Anna Kephart has been granted an archiving dream. As coordinator of the Southern Maryland Studies Center at CSM, Ms. Kephart has begun the process to evaluate and organize mountains of materials handed over by the Maryland Independent.

Ms. Kephart was first contacted about the opportunity in January 2016, when she was told the Charles County newspaper of record was moving to a smaller space and no longer had room for decades of physical newspaper archives and related materials. Years of history were being placed in limbo, and Ms. Kephart was asked if she was interested. The question was an archivist’s dream. The problem was, the newspaper has been purchased by Adams Publishing Group LLC, a media company with offices on the Eastern Shore, and the materials needed to be moved fast. The deadline to get it done was less than eight weeks away.


Anna Kephart, coordinator of the Southern Maryland Studies Center, documents one of her first site visits to the former Maryland Independent office.

Ms. Kephart headed over to the offices to evaluate the materials. The purpose of the SMSC is to collect and protect archival material related to the region, and the Maryland Independent’s stash was a treasure trove. Ms. Kephart donned a mask to protect herself from any mold spores and a camping headlamp to compensate for the dimly lit storage area. She climbed up and down stairs, peering into stacks of materials, finding that the collection included hundreds of bound volumes of not just the Maryland Independent, but also St. Mary’s Beacon, The Enterprise, The Calvert Recorder, Flightline, and other newspapers, as well as photo negatives, contact sheets, CDs of archived photos, and a mix of other paper records collected over the years.

“I was overwhelmed,” she said.

It became clear that the SMSC would not be able to take everything. “It would have doubled our current holdings,” she said. “It was not feasible.”

But Ms. Kephart could take parts of it. Staff believed the SMSC could house the boxes and boxes of photo contact sheets with accompanying negatives, as well as the envelopes stuffed with printed photos, CDs of archived photos and other papers like fair books and story notes that Ms. Kephart deemed particularly valuable. There were photos of county fairs, Jaycees projects, first days of school, championship basketball games, and so many other events that make up the history of a place.

“But it wasn’t just about what’s in it for us. It was about how can we find homes for the remainder before it’s too late,” Kephart said, recalling that she felt “immense pressure” to save bound copies of the newspapers before they were lost forever. So, she also worked with archivist contacts throughout the state to help find homes for the remainder of the materials.

Bound copies of The Enterprise were already headed to St. Mary’s College of Maryland, where they were combined with other bound copies from The Enterprise office, an effort coordinated by Jason Babcock, a reporter from that paper who was anxious to save the volumes. The SMCM library now houses a collection of bound copies of The Enterprise from 1952 to 2015 and bound copies of the St. Mary’s Beacon from 1957 to 1982.

Copies of The Calvert Recorder were taken by the Calvert County Historical Society, and the bound copies of the Maryland Independent went to the Maryland State Archives, together with several additional titles. That the SMSC maintains a microfilm run from 1874 to the present of the Maryland Independent at the center’s La Plata Campus location for those who don’t want to travel to Annapolis to use bound volumes of the Maryland Independent for research.

Photography materials now at SMSC need to be processed and appropriately protected, a job that will take several months, Ms. Kephart said. But they are safe.

“We are grateful for Anna’s hard work and for her to recognize the value of these archives,” said Maryland Independent Editor Rob Perry. “The Studies Center is now home to this collection and is accessible to all Charles County residents and history enthusiasts.”

The space and the effort required to protect the Maryland Independent collection is worth it, Kephart said. While newspaper materials from only 40 years ago might not seem that historically valuable now, they provide a particularly objective overall view of the community.

“It’s like a core sample,” Kephart said. “Many decades from now, it’s going to provide a really, richly detailed picture of life in the 80s and 90s in Southern Maryland.

For information on the Southern Maryland Studies Center or to view a part of its Maryland Independent photo collection, call 301-934-7606, email smsc@csmd.edu, or visit CSM’s website.

For more about the College of Southern Maryland, visit its Leader member page.

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