New Orleans – A purple unmarked building on Oretha Castle Haley Boulevard holds pages and pages of New Orleans history.
How many pages? More than 500,000.
Inside is one ofthe largest private collection of periodicals of day to day life in Southeast Louisiana from 1888 to 1929.
“I answered an ad on Craigslist,” says Joseph Makkos, on how he got the collection.
30,000 tubes of newspapers full Makkos’ studio, all from the British Library Archives.
Some of the sections are divided by important cultural events, like Mardi Gras. Tragic times are also in the archive, like the French Opera House burning on Bourbon Street.
“Eventually we will be able to look at an entire day of New Orleans history. All the way from section A, all the way to the comics section,” says Makkos.
However Makkos and his team are faced with challenges of new digitization. Decades of microfilming have compromised historians efforts to restore history.
“When we talk about microfilming, they photographed it using 50 ISO ‘line film’, in the 50s, 60s, 70s. They shrunk it down really tiny. They digitized it in the 90s, and the blew it back up. It equates to a loss of cultural information,” says Makkos.
Makkos is working to scan all of the papers and make them easily searchable with out losing anything.
“When you look at these, the originals you make out a lot of details that weren’t there before,” says Makkos.
Those details include people’s facial expressions, or ad space.
Companies who are restoring buildings to their former glory have asked Makkos to dig up advertisements from when the buildings first opened.
Giving contractors a map on how to do it accurately.
Even Hollyhood has called asking for copies of Makko’s original editions.
But the most personal request are from people searching to fill in their family history.
“This is going to touch a lot of people. I think the potential for this to touch a lot of people and for people to uncover fascinating tidbits and important things about who they are, not just a big overarching picture, but individuals. That’s going to be the light bulbs that are going to be the most important and the most magical.”