What makes news? In Laurel, Hurricane Agnes, the Spanish Flu, George Wallace, 9/11, fires, robberies, murders and integration battles made (or didn’t make) headlines.
All are part of Laurel’s history. How the local media covered these and other events is the focus of the Laurel Museum’s newest exhibit: “Ripped from the Headlines: Laurel in the News,” which opens Feb. 8.
A piece from the North Tower of the World Trade Center, a Life magazine with content about on the Wallace shooting signed by George Wallace, fire and police equipment, and materials salvaged from Hurricane Agnes’s flood destruction are among the objects on display that will accompany the news stories. Visitors also will encounter long-forgotten names like John Sedlick, Mrs. Burroughs, John Morgan and Carol Replane in sometimes tragic, and occasionally funny, stories that gripped local attention during the past 118 years.
Interspersed throughout the exhibit are advertisements for long-forgotten products and businesses that provide their own humorous look at daily life in Laurel since 1897.
“Ripped from the Headlines” is designed to be a journey into the past and a thought-provoking exploration of news. Visitors are encouraged not just to read the stories, but to ask questions concerning what gets covered and why, what happens if stories aren’t reported and how coverage today is different from the past.
The exhibit centers on stories as they were covered in the hometown newspaper and commemorates the Laurel Historical Society’s (LHS) acquisition and digitization of the Laurel Leader.
“Our recent acquisition and digitization of the Laurel Leader opens up resources beyond what we could have imagined years ago. ‘Ripped from the Headlines: Laurel in the News’ highlights these new windows into the past, while also asking our community to think analytically about news coverage over the years,” said LHS Executive Director Lindsey Baker.
The exhibit is divided into seven sections. Bad Luck Beat uncovers tragedies of many forms, ranging from train wrecks to the devastating 1918 Spanish Influenza epidemic and fatal buggy accidents; OffBeat explores topics ranging from The Woman’s Club of Laurel to Prohibition; Firehouse Beat looks at some of the fires over the years that shaped the community and led to creation of the fire department; the Disaster Beat focuses on Mother Nature and the floods, tornados and earthquakes that damaged property, but not the town’s spirit.
Laurel also has been the focus of stories that made national news, and the National News Desk explores how 9/11 and the Wallace shooting were covered locally. Law and Order reminds us of some of the crimes that shook the community when they happened, but which today are largely forgotten, including the Basu carjacking, a Citizen’s National Bank robbery and the Hargis and Replane murders.
Editorial: Integration provides an in-depth overview of the coverage that accompanied one of the most difficult and divisive eras in Laurel history — school integration, particularly from 1954 to 1985. It explores whether the coverage reflected the reality of the integration process, community values or wishful thinking, controversies that arose and questions of whether or not the schools are, in fact, integrated.
“Ripped from the Headlines” runs through Dec. 20 at the Laurel Museum. The Museum is open Wednesdays and Fridays, 10 a.m.–2 p.m., and Sundays from 1–4 p.m. Admission is free. The digitized Laurel Leader archive and other items from the LHS collection are open to researchers by appointment Monday through Friday.