Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc. and the Oklahoma Historical Society have come to an agreement permitting OHS to place tens of thousands of editions of The Edmond Sun archives on its Gateway to Oklahoma History website.
The Edmond Sun was the oldest publishing paper in Oklahoma at the time it closed in May 2020 and its website was taken down. The newspaper’s first issue published in July 1889, 18 years before Oklahoma statehood.
“I am very happy that the Oklahoma Historical Society and CNHI were able to come to an agreement regarding the placement of The Edmond Sun archives on the Gateway to Oklahoma History website,” said Trait Thompson, executive director of the Oklahoma Historical Society. “CNHI recognized the value of The Edmond Sun to the historical record of Oklahoma and negotiated with the OHS in good faith.”
Prior to the agreement, OHS was only permitted to digitize issues of The Edmond Sun that published before 1964 under federal copyright law. But with approval from CNHI, all issues of The Edmond Sun can now be placed on the website for public access.
“Per the MOU that was signed in May 2023 with CNHI, permission was granted to add issues of the newspaper published between 1964 and 2020 to the Gateway to Oklahoma History provided they are not shared with any other entity for profit or otherwise sold or transferred,” Thompson said. “The OHS is currently reviewing funding options to determine when digitization of the microfilm archives of The Edmond Sun can begin.”
The agreement came at no cost to OHS, Bill Ketter, CNHI’s senior vice president for news, said.
“I think it’s a positive development for the city of Edmond,” Ketter said. “It gives them the historical record of The Edmond Sun — all of the background, stories and historical information they may want to retrieve for whatever purpose.”
Access to the completed archives will allow historians to find records more quickly and recall historical events, said Amy Stephens, executive director of the Edmond Historical Society and Museum.
“At the museum, we felt profoundly affected when The Edmond Sun was removed online. Suddenly, when we were asked to verify a date or event from Edmond’s history, we couldn’t look it up. No one could. It meant hours of digging though paper files for the information,” Stephens said. “To us, that blank screen represented a loss of the freedom of information. Historians rely on newspapers every day, because written words save the stories of a civilization.”
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Stephens said that she believes Milton “Kickingbird” Reynolds, the founder of The Edmond Sun, “would be pleased to know that his words are not lost.”
“We are so grateful for the cooperative effort of the Oklahoma History Center, CNHI, our former mayors and NonDoc, but also to the many Edmondites who held hope that someday The Edmond Sun would become a resource again. We have our stories back!” Stephens said.
‘Everybody knows history repeats itself’
Dan O’Neil was serving as Edmond’s mayor at the time The Edmond Sun closed in 2020, leaving only Edmond Life & Leisure and The Vista student publication as the city’s only newspapers. He said he is “thrilled” about CNHI’s agreement with OHS.
“Everybody always thinks, ‘Well, we don’t have to worry about a paper copy because it’s always available on electronics,'” O’Neil said. “It isn’t, necessarily.”
O’Neil recalled learning that the paper would be no more.
“To lose that important resource for our business community and the community itself was terrible,” O’Neil said.
Former Edmond Mayor Randel Shadid said public access to the archives will allow Edmond to preserve its history.
“Everybody knows history repeats itself — seems like we seldom learn from our past errors — but when it comes to local activity particularly on the municipal government level, I’ve said for years, nothing really changes except the names and the dates. The issues remain the same,” Shadid said. “You can go back to 30, 40 years ago when Edmond started growing, and they’re having the same arguments about land use and this and that.”
Shadid said the uploading of archives to the OHS site will make it “a lot easier to do research” for those who want to.
“It’s good to try to learn from history,” Shadid said. “The problem is everybody forgets it after a few years and forgets the mistakes of the past.”
Current Edmond Mayor Darrell Davis praised a “grassroots effort” for securing The Edmond Sun’s archives online.
“It’s very important to me that we are able as a community to be able to preserve our history, not only for the people of today, but also the future generations that are going to come and live and be a part of Edmond,” Davis said. “This was a grassroots effort after the Sun closed down in 2020 to not give up and keep working — just like the citizens of Edmond have always done — to help get it across the finish line to where we’ll have that ability to look into the archives and research our history.”
The OHS website already includes digitally archived editions of The Edmond Enterprise, a newspaper that published from 1901 through 1957.