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Historical project will stretch through 2020

After more than 132 years, the Brandon Sun continues to play an important role in covering daily news in Brandon and in Westman.

Readers these days have more options than ever when they look for national or world news, but unfortunately somewhat fewer for local news. Helping fill the gap is the fact that anyone with a smartphone or a Twitter account can happen to be around when news breaks, but it’s often overlooked that professionals are the ones who sit through tedious city council meetings or long days in court.

Also overlooked are the newspaper’s archives. "Yesterday’s news" is so devalued that it’s used as a slur. But once a few years pass, value returns. And after a century, newspapers can be pretty valuable indeed.

That’s one of the reasons that the Brandon Sun is taking the time to look back — way back — at the history of the First World War. Certainly, the story of the war has been told time and time again. But it has seldom been told from a Brandon perspective.

For the next four years, the Sun will be spending time and space not just on the day’s breaking news, but on news that broke 100 years ago.

On a regular basis between now and 2018, the paper will run a regular feature on what was going on a century ago. Primarily, this will deal with the First World War, which was obviously the biggest story of the time, and it will take a particular interest in the impact  the war had on Brandon and on the southwestern Manitoba region. Of course, there was more than just the war going on back then, and the feature will also take a look at other local stories, quirky ads, or even wire copy that can help contextualize the war news.

And that’s not all.

Starting next month, the Sun also plans to begin examining the 75th anniversary of the Second World War, in the same way.

Through the newspaper’s archives from 1939 through 1945, stories from that world conflict will again be told, from a Brandon perspective three-quarters of a century later.

Of course, Brandon is lucky to also have a pretty deep current of historical strength in this community, with dedicated museums and archives whose holdings the Sun will also be drawing on to help fill these features.

And these features won’t just be regurgitating facts and synopsizing dusty old news stories. Instead, with the benefit of long years between then and now, there is an opportunity to tell stories that can get lost in the day-to-day frenzy of breaking news, stories that trace paths through the months and years of the war, that add depth and texture to them. Stories about institutions and groups, and about the legacy  they still leave. Stories about people whose exploits burned slowly. Stories about the community that can only be seen from the distance that time can afford.

This very long-term project is possibly the largest ever the Sun has embarked on. It’s not expected to conclude until 2020, on the 75th anniversary of the end of the Second World War.

While it will be printed in pages of the paper, where it will perhaps be of interest to some future historian, it will also be collected online, at brandonsun.com/firstworldwar100 and at brandonsun.com/secondworldwar75.

As the project progresses, there will be an opportunity for readers, too, to share their stories, to upload their photos and their memories, and to participate in reliving the impact these two global conflicts had here at home.

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