New generation helps preserve history at Clawson museum

By: Taylor Christensen | Royal Oak Review | Published March 5, 2024

 Owen Ball and Marlayna Reinhardt have fun digitizing newspaper clippings for the Clawson Historical Museum Feb. 24.

Owen Ball and Marlayna Reinhardt have fun digitizing newspaper clippings for the Clawson Historical Museum Feb. 24.

Photo provided by Lisa Ball


CLAWSON — Two Clawson Middle School students helped to digitize old newspaper clippings Feb. 24 at the Clawson Historical Museum.

Clawson Middle School National Junior Honor Society members Owen Ball and Marlayna Reinhardt took on the job to bring these archives into the digital world.

Both students are in the seventh grade and they have been friends for five years. Ball and Reinhardt were both interested in Clawson history, and reading the various newspaper clippings.

“There is a lot of stuff in the paper that many people don’t really think matters,” Ball said. “But it was kind of interesting to learn about all of the things that happened before.”

Leah Davis, curator at the Clawson Historical Museum, said that it was a great thing to see the younger generation experience history.

“I think them coming in and getting to do it hands-on is really great. Being able to do things and experience it rather than just sitting there and being talked to, and really be a part of it, I think, helps them get interested in it,” she said.

Davis said that Ball and Reinhardt reached out to fulfill volunteer hours needed as National Junior Honor Society students.

Ball and his family are active museum attendees and inquired about doing volunteer hours at the museum.

His mother, Lisa Ball, is an active member of the Clawson community, working as the recreation supervisor for the city, and knows Davis well as her co-worker.

“The one family has come in here multiple times as they live locally,” Davis said, “and so they just happened to pop in and ask if Owen could do his volunteer hours here.”

The process of digitizing newspaper clippings is not as simple as scanning them into the system, according to Davis.

The historical museum uses software called PastPerfect, which is a computer program to catalog collections. It is used by more than 11,000 museums, historical societies, archives, libraries and other collecting institutions worldwide, according to the PastPerfect website.

Following a training session on how to use the program, Ball and Reinhardt got to work reading the news clippings, pulling out important information, and logging it into the computer system to make it searchable, according to Davis.

“They have to do a bit of a summary without typing the entire article in there,” she said. “It does take some skills to pull out what is going to make it searchable, because that is the whole point of digitizing them.”

Ball said the process was tedious, but it ended up becoming second nature toward the end.

“There were a lot of little details that if you forget, you mess up the whole process. But it wasn’t too hard,” he said.

Reinhardt said she was interested in the obituaries and some old crime stories she saw in the clippings, but overall was mostly intrigued to dive deeper into the city of Clawson’s history.

“It is just because I live in Clawson that I want to learn more,” she said. “I originally just wanted some extra volunteer hours for NJHS, and I assumed that working with people at the museum would probably be very fun.”

Lisa Ball said that history is an important part of learning for younger kids like Ball and Reinhardt, and it can be a fun experience. She also put an emphasis on volunteering.

“They really enjoy it. They may not totally understand why, but it’s something new and different and hopefully they continue to volunteer at organizations like this,” she said. “That’s my own intention — to expose the kids to volunteer groups within the city.”

Davis said that more and more kids are coming forward with requests to volunteer, and she plans to put more information about it out to the schools.

“I do plan to reach out to the schools to let them know that if students need volunteer hours, or they just want to come in and experience some of the things that go on at the museum, they can,” she said.