Greek-Americans look to preserve historic archive

Greek-Americans look to preserve historic archive

The remaining copies of newspapers documenting 50 years of the Greek American community are falling apart at the seams, threatening the loss of the history ingrained in the contents of its pages.

bostonherald.com

“They are literally crumbling like filo dough left on the kitchen counter,” former editor-in-chief Nancy Agris Savage said of the The Hellenic Chronicle archive. “The Greek-American community has just exploded in the United States and the history of it is about to disappear if we don’t do something about it.”

Agris Savage, daughter of the Boston-based paper’s founder Peter Agris, is leading a fundraising campaign in collaboration with the Alpha Omega Council to preserve that history by bringing the remainder of the records online. About 54,000 pages would be lost, she said, if not digitized and housed online in a searchable database.

“My father, when he founded this newspaper, its sole reason for being was not to report news from Greece in a way that benefited any particular party or anything else. It was to unite Greek-Americans assimilating in the U.S.,” Agris Savage said. “This information is not available anywhere else.”

The goal is to raise $50,000 to cover the expenses for digitizing everything manually, which Agris Savage said is less than half of what it would cost to hire a data preservation company. The semi-complete archive is only accessible by manually scouring either microfiche at the Boston Public Library or the deteriorating pages in bound volumes at The Archbishop Iakovos Library on the Hellenic College-Holy Cross School of Theology.

The weekly paper ran from 1950-2000, charting the expansion of the archdiocese, the history of Hellenic cultural organizations, and the professional successes and personal celebrations of individuals and families throughout the community.

Agris Savage pointed to supporters of the paper including former U.S. Rep. Paul Tsongas, former White House spokesman and ABC TV host George Stephanopoulos and former Gov. Mike Dukakis.

“I grew up with the Hellenic Chronicle,” Stephanopoulos said. “It was essential reading in our home, and one of the strongest threads binding America’s Greek community into a family. The archives would be a vital resource to anyone studying the story of Greeks in America.”

Nicholas Gage, author and investigative journalist, helped pay for his college education working three afternoons a week at The Hellenic Chronicle.

“The Hellenic Chronicle was the Boswell of the Greek community in New England during the second half of the 20th century and will remain an invaluable source for anyone interested in the Greek diaspora for generations to come,” Gage said. “It will be a tragedy if it is not digitalized and becomes an enduring part of the great mosaic that is immigrant life in America.”

Over 25% of the issues from the first decade are missing and many articles have been cut out over the years. Agris Savage emphasized her interest in obtaining old copies that people might have stored in their basements and encourages people to contact her at nancyasavage@gmail.com.