In a unanimous decision during Tuesday night’s regular meeting, the Santa Clarita City Council approved the distribution of a $300,000 grant that will be used to refurbish SCVHistory.com.
Citing SCVHIstory.com as a decades-long trove for all things related to local history, the grant will allow the website operator, SCVTV, to refigure the outdated back-end coding in order to provide a more user-friendly experience, according to city officials.
“The city can assist and do something to save our history, because I’m afraid it will become inoperative and a lost resource and we won’t have a Rosetta Stone to solve this,” said Mayor Laurene Weste in support of the grant funding. “It’s a sacred tie to our past.”
More than 20 people spoke during the public comment section of the meeting in support of the move, along with Weste stating that 32 letters of support had been sent in, as well. The speakers and letter authors, Weste said, largely argued that the “marvelous resource” must be preserved.
According to a letter sent by SCVTV.com’s President Leon Worden ahead of the meeting, the outdated programing language for the site has been used since it first began in 1996 and has grown over the last 26 years from a few dozen historic photographs to close to 100,000 archival items in various digital formats.
Not only has the historical archive grown in quantity, but also in scope, providing students, academics and hobbyists with information and articles on everything from the 1994 Northridge Earthquake to the St. Francis Dam disaster to the earliest Native American tribes to have occupied the land centuries before industrialization came to the Santa Clarita Valley.
Among the many speakers who approached the podium to speak in favor of the grant was RuthAnne Murthy, a retired Castaic Union School District teacher and current docent for the Santa Clarita Valley Historical Society. The educator said that after being introduced to SCVHIstory.com, she was inspired to write a curriculum guide for children and a short textbook based on much of the information she found on the website regarding local history.
“It would be tragic to lose years and years of passionate work that Leon Worden has provided,” said Murthy. “I urge the city to take on this responsibility of updating and maintaining this precious collection.”
In conjunction with the $300,000 grant, SCVTV is seeking a contribution to help fund the project through the National Endowment of the Humanities, which could match the city’s grant amount should the national organization approve the SCVHistory.com application.
Upon completion of the upgrades, SCVTV plans to hand ownership of SCVHistory.com to the Santa Clarita Public Library, according to the meeting agenda, and to allow government staff to take over the site’s management and curation, as opposed to keeping the responsibility with Worden and his team.
“The most important thing about this is, if approved, is the contents of SCV history could thrive and truly flourish under the institution of the Santa Clarita Public Library, which is actually positioned to handle large databases,” said Weste. “Then everybody can use it, which everybody’s using it now, but you won’t be using it long if we don’t get it translated.”