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Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Ben Truwe prepares to transfer 16 mm film of news clips from 1968 into digital copies at the Southern Oregon Historical Society in downtown Medford.

Truwe lives in the past for future generations

While he teased that he’d have been more excited about free parking privileges or a few extra sets of helping hands, local historian Ben Truwe conceded he was flattered when he received the Daughters of the American Revolution Community Service Award.

The honor is bestowed once or twice a year for volunteers who go “above and beyond” in their commitment to history. Truwe has certainly done that, putting in enough service hours on a slew of local history projects to equal the output of a not-so-small band of devoted volunteers.

Truwe is a familiar bearded face around downtown Medford, often in a fur jacket and period-specific costume. Local fans know of him from his popular Saturday walking tours or his Windows in Time lectures at the Medford and Ashland libraries.

Truwe, who turned 67 today, dedicates more hours than a full-time job would require to maintain both the Southern Oregon Historical Society website (www.truwe.sohs.org/files/index.html) and to digitize and index thousands of film clips and documents held in the SOHS collection.

Truwe said his focus is more out of a personal drive to want history preserved and readily accessible for future generations.

“The ultimate mission is to make original documents available. It’s what I do on the website, which is now over 900 pages, which is completely out of control, but that’s beside the point,” said Truwe, a former Medford City Council member.

“And it’s not anything complicated that I do. I don’t editorialize. I don’t write history. I transcribe documents that people should have access to.”

Lillian Stewart, honorary state regent for Oregon, said Truwe has created one of the most extensive local history websites in the country.

Stewart called Truwe a quiet, unsung hero.

“Ben was given this award both to recognize his volunteer work and also to help SOHS get some publicity for other people to go down there and volunteer to help out with this massive project,” Stewart said.

“Ben asked for help a half-dozen times, even during his presentation. We really wanted to get him that recognition that he so deserves for everything he has done for this community in Southern Oregon to preserve our history. We are very, very lucky to have Ben Truwe.”

When he was presented with the award Aug. 1, Truwe used his moment in the spotlight as a recruitment opportunity.

“It was a nice gesture, but it’s a piece of paper. What I’d really like is some help. I’ve got a couple people who offered to help — haven’t shown up yet, be lovely if they did. It’s time-consuming work, but it’s pretty simple to do,” Truwe said.

“I’ve been working on this project for two years, and I’ve probably only got 5 or 6 percent done. There’s a real backlog of opportunities for anyone with some spare time on their hands for making history readily available.

“We have these vast resources just sitting in the archives because no one has read them, no one has indexed them. I’m more than willing to share there’s plenty of fun to go around.”

Truwe’s Windows in Time lunchtime lectures, jointly sponsored by the Southern Oregon Historical Society and Jackson County Library Services, are held at noon on first Wednesdays of the month at the Medford library and third Wednesdays in Ashland.

Afternoon tours of the research library archive are offered from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturdays. For details or to volunteer, call 541-773-6536. Truwe can be reached via email at truwe@mind.net.

Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

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