W hen we made the move last year to our new office, we brought with us more than 1,200 cubic feet of archives. These were mainly old issues of TEXAS FISH & GAME and TEXAS LAKES & BAYS that dated back into the Nineteen-Eighties, plus archive copies of the old TEXAS FISHERMAN, which we had acquired in 1991.
Anyone who has cleaned out an attic will be able to relate to what this entailed. Our old office building had an eccentric loft with a ceiling just over six feet high. Not of much use as a work area, the space was adequate for storing old files. When we moved into the building, in 2004, we had about twenty years’ worth of back issues. By the time we prepared to move to our current location, this storage area had been crammed, wall to wall, floor to headache-high ceiling, with all the archives we had originally put there and then added to in the ensuing thirteen years.
Compiling these archives had been loosely delegated over the years to our subscription service staff, and the process was never a major priority. We did want to preserve as much evidence of our work as possible, so the staff had a more or less standing order to archive ten copies of each issue. Low priority work being what it is, our standing order was not managed under strict scrutiny. A times, it was more convenient to save a whole carton of office copies (50 to 60 to a carton) than to break out the requested ten. This, among other organizational liberties and shortcuts, resulted in a bloated pile of storage boxes in a wild variety of shapes and sizes. Unloaded in our new warehouse—almost all of which was needed for our large book inventory—this mess took up way too much space.
And, so, we began a cathartic process of re-cataloging the library of our past.
This meant going through every single box, sorting through issues and separating the many instances where issues from different months, even years, had been jumbled together. Then we saved the desired ten copies of each issue and put them in new, uniform-sized archive containers that were easy to store on larger, sturdier shelves. Tons of old paper went to recycling and the huge, disorderly mountain of archives that had filled a mid-size U-Haul truck was reduced to a single row of easily accessible shelves.
The work was also a journey. Every issue held memories. We had been there, and had worked on every one of them. It was hard not to stop and leaf through issue after issue, reliving the times, the people and the creative process we experienced when we produced them.
Sadly, in the early years—especially those in Marble Falls and San Antonio—little thought was given to historical preservation. Heck, our concern in those start-up years was literal preservation. So there were issues from the early days that did not survive. Fortunately, most issues did and we now have decades of history to look back on.
In fact, if any of you have saved your own copies of TF&G, especially from the years 1984 to 1989, we’d love to hear from you. If we could temporarily borrow them, we could digitize them to create a virtual library of the missing issues. Of course, we would return them, in tact. If you have any such copies and want to participate in this digital recovery effort, just shoot us an email at one of our addresses below. We would be grateful for the assistance.
Culling and reorganizing our archives has made one thing clear: There is a fine line between acting as the curator of your own history, and being a hoarder.