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September 17, 2008 - Bill Ackerbauer
After several months of running around like a chicken with my head cut off, I've finally finished putting together the forthcoming commemorative book Celebrating Johnstown. Perhaps you've seen the ads in the paper announcing that it will be available soon.
The book features more than 200 historical photos of Johnstown landmarks, people and events, most of which have not been published in book form before. I gathered the photos from sources such as the Johnstown Public Library, the Johnstown Historical Society and the digital photo archive at Fulton-Montgomery Community College's Kenneth R. Dorn Regional History Study Center. Other photos in the book are from the Library of Congress, our archives here at the Leader-Herald and even from local friends and relatives of mine who said, "Hey, you might be interested in these ..."
And to help put all these pictures into context, several of our top local history experts contribute insightful writings about Sir William Johnson and his Hall, the development of Johnstown's industries and economy, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, the great flood of 1889, and other topics. Noel Levee, Wanda Burch, Peter Betz and Bill Loveday all contributed articles for the book. I received tremendous amounts of research assistance from them as well as Deb Callery and Barbara Germain at the Public Library.
This has been the Leader's first attempt to produce and publish a book, and it was certainly my first time working on a publication of such magnitude. It has been a challenging, stressful experience. (The project started to get so time-consuming that one of my co-workers affectionately dubbed it "that @#$@%&* book!") What can I say? It's been a labor of [expletive] love. ;) But it also has been an educational and rewarding adventure into this small town's past.
Having immersed myself in a sea of historical photos and texts over the last several months, I now see my hometown in a new light. It's also made me into a mildly obsessive history nut ... I can't seem to drive past an old building in town without telling anyone unfortunate enough to be with me a dozen bits of trivia about it: when it was built, what it was originally used for, who might have started a business there or made a speech there or committed an infamous crime there.
At one point in the project, I was spending so much time poring over old photographs that I was having dreams at night that looked like old black-and-white movies. Yikes.
I have good news for readers of this blog who are interested in the book and just brimming with anticipation to see it in all its 120-page soft-cover glory. It will be available soon. And while you wait, I will put several things on the blog related to the book and the general subject of Johnstown's history. The historians and researchers I worked with were so helpful and clued me in to so much information that I couldn't possibly fit it all into the book. (Believe me, I tried.) Stay tuned for a couple of treats that I will put online shortly: An booklet about Johnstown from 1941 that is now out of print, and a video-slideshow featuring a small sample of photographs from the new book.
Watch the newspaper for information about how to order a copy of Celebrating Johnstown. I hope everyone who gets their hands on a copy will get as much out of it as I have.
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The cover of "Celebrating Johnstown," coming soon.