How you can find newspapers that unlock Virginia history

Posted at 10:00 PM, Oct 28, 2016

RICHMOND, Va. -- Errol Somay is a colorful guy who lives for black and white.

Every day, for the last 23 years, Somay has been perusing the past.

His job is saving items most people discard without a second thought.

"It truly is, to use a cliché is a treasure trove," Errol said. "We use (newspapers) as wrapping paper. We use it to clean windows."

Errol thrives on pulp non-fiction.

The New Jersey native is the Director of the Virginia Newspaper Project at the Library of Virginia.

"I just don't think people know that there is this wealth of archival material here that dates back to the 1600's," Errol said.

Countless issues of more than 4,000 newspapers line the climate controlled fourth floor of the Library on East Broad.

"Preserving our historic record of newspapers is like archeology some of it is gone forever," Errol said.

Newspapers from small towns to big counties across the Commonwealth provide a snapshot of who we really are, he maintained.

"You may have a current event, but if you wait a few years it is history," he said.

Somay, the son of immigrants from Turkey and Puerto Rico, arrived in Richmond after traveling the world, working at Columbia University and New York's Public Library.

"I did not know I would be involved in this for as long as I am," Errol admitted.

He even found his name in print in the mid-1980's writing album reviews for Rolling Stone Magazine.

"The joke was librarian by day, rock critic by night," he recalled.

In his new role, Errol finds beauty in time worn tabloids.

The 64-year-old man lamented newspapers in the digital revolution are becoming old news.

But the silver lining was digitization made the Library's priceless collection of the written word more accessible.

"Literally hundreds of people a day are using the data base to search Virginia's newspapers," Errol said.

So, before you toss that newspaper, Errol Somay said think about the history in your hand.

"That is where it is gratifying," he said. "It is not dusty newspapers and sitting on a shelf they are being used. They are still alive and alive and kicking."

Click here for more information on the Library Project at the Library of Virginia.

Email Greg if you know someone who has a story to tell.



Watch 'The Jennifer Hudson Show' weekdays at 3 p.m. on CBS 6!

📱 Download CBS 6 News App
The app features breaking news alerts, live video, weather radar, traffic incidents, closings and delays and more.