(NOTE: For an overview of this book’s development, go to Historical photo book arriving soon on this website.)
“How can the Friends (of the City of Las Vegas Museum) help to get this important resource more accessible to the public?” That was the question board members considered when they discovered the museum had many archived historical photos in its possession, mostly in storage. The journey to create a photo book to achieve that goal began in 2009. Board chair Bob Mishler said the expectation is that Las Vegas, New Mexico – 1835-1935, sponsored by the Friends of the City of Las Vegas Museum, will be printed by April 2018. A discussion on exact price of the book – expected to be between $39.95 and $44.95 – is underway, and will be announced soon.
Mishler credits author/editor Edwina P. Romero (Patti), and dynamic interaction with selected members of the subcommittee, with the book’s evolution into a more interpretative offering of Las Vegas’ first century. “The various descriptive bits and pieces were woven into a tapestry of people and lifestyles,” he said. “It became more of a social and cultural ethnographic record of the people of early Las Vegas as documented through time.”
Romero, the author of two historical nonfiction books, is an historian at heart. She worked diligently to assure accuracy and authenticity in Footlights in the Foothills, Amateur Theatre of Las Vegas and Fort Union, New Mexico, 1871-1899, and Cowboy Reunions of Las Vegas, New Mexico. She is currently at work on her first historical novel, Prairie Madness, set at Fort Union and in Las Vegas, while also dedicating the bulk of her time to her role as author-editor of Las Vegas, New Mexico – 1835-1935.
Romero’s education includes a BA at California State University Dominguez Hills, an MA at New Mexico Highlands University, and her Ph.D. at the University of New Mexico. She describes herself as a mother, author, former Assistant Professor, former academic administrator, and former horse trainer.
In the following Q&A, she talks about her experiences working on the Las Vegas photo book.
ORP: How did you become involved in the Las Vegas photo book project?
Patti: The early concept for this book came about while I was working at the City of Las Vegas Museum (CLVM). The book sub-committee of the Friends of the City of Las Vegas Museum and Rough Rider Memorial Collection (Friends) met at the CLVM. As an employee, I was aware of the project as one of several museum activities. Then, because I was familiar with the Museum’s photograph collection, I was given the task of searching that collection for images to add to the book.
Several years later, Bob Mishler (Friends chair), contacted me about writing extended historical captions. When I delved into the possibilities of taking on this project, I saw that the task required large-scale organization and editing to determine the best, most accurate way to approach the captions. So I submitted a proposal to do the work.
ORP: What appealed to you about working on this project, which was in development when you took it on?
Patti: First, the photographs themselves grabbed me. My first books, Footlights in the Foothills, Amateur Theatre of Las Vegas and Fort Union, New Mexico, 1871-1899, and Cowboy Reunions of Las Vegas, New Mexico, examine two aspects of Las Vegas history, but these period photographs show the larger context—the bigger picture in which amateur theatre and ranch life had taken place.
The second thing—I have to admit—was the challenge. The project had been in the works for several years, but work on it had been suspended for awhile. I saw great potential in publishing a book using period photos to reveal as much of the fascinating history of Las Vegas as could be contained within the limits of a book.
ORP: What was the driving force behind the project in its early stages? How has that changed, or has it?
Patti: I was not directly involved in the early stages of the project, which involved several people and a Friends book sub-committee. When I got involved, it seemed that the original concept was oriented toward the film industry while telling the history of Las Vegas. During the early stages, fourteen historical essays from several historians as well as narratives and photographs from community members—all solicited by the Friends—had been approved, adding a heavier focus on history.
My driving force, keeping the book sub-committee’s objectives and previous work in mind, was to put the materials into a book that people would want to read, enjoy, and learn from. I proposed to narrow the approach to a specific historical time frame—1835-1935—and a specific location—the communities of Las Vegas. Also, I made showcasing the CLVM’s historical photograph collection a priority, and I suggested adding images and topics for side bars—biographical profiles and short write-ups of events.
ORP: Talk about the photo selection process. I understand that in addition to selecting the photos, research to determine source and attribution was required. What was that like?
Patti: Criteria for selection included aesthetics, time period, relevance to the major topics within the book’s time period, authenticity, and availability. Once images met these criteria, they needed to “pass inspection” by the book designer, in other words: Would the photos reproduce well?
For me, the toughest parts of selection—and de-selection—were determining dates, authenticity, and origins, and securing permission to publish copyrighted images/narratives. Next came matching photos with the ongoing narrative of the people and events in the history of Las Vegas from 1835 to1935. This involved long hours examining notes written on the photos, the data from the repositories about the photos, historical books and narratives, and what the image itself indicated through clothing, vehicles, background buildings, etc. The copyrights for several images were held by individuals, it was often hard to find these people to get their permission. Fortunately, throughout the project, I had the help of staff members and volunteers.
ORP: As the author-editor, what were your priorities when you first became involved?
Patti: I wanted to make this book pop.
When I began work, materials for the book included several hundred photo-copied images (many duplicates) from a variety of repositories and covering many historical periods and geographical locations—in addition to fourteen essays, assorted narratives and notes (authors unidentified), and historical materials from community members.
My priorities began by getting familiar with all this stuff, finding the best way to present it to readers, while at the same time, honoring the known and unknown histories of Las Vegas and making it a “good read.”
ORP: There are historical essays, and of course photo captions. What were the sources of information to flesh out the book’s content?
Patti: The historian-authors’ essays include sources cited or consulted.
For the extended historical captions, sidebars, and introductory materials, I consulted the following: published books and articles, newspaper accounts, the Internet, the notes and essays that were part of the boxes of materials the sub-committee gave me, unpublished works and old histories in the CLVM archives, Donnelly Library, Carnegie Library, and various New Mexico state records data bases. In addition, I talked to people.
ORP: In what ways has the graphic designer (Kenesson Design, Inc.) been helpful in organizing the book’s visual appeal and presentation?
Patti: First, Kristin Kenesson approved for publication the selected images. Sometimes, she added images from her stock that would further enhance the appearance. She designed the layout, color scheme, and various fonts for the type—all beautiful. She often asked good questions about Las Vegas, which sometimes pointed to a need for more detail. And, because of her visual arts background, she provided options for ways to express history, which were both challenging and affirming.
ORP: Although the book was in process when you contracted with the Friends, there was still a vast amount of information in need of organizing or prioritizing. What was most important to you at the outset of your involvement?
Patti: The human side of history. I kept it in mind as I organized, re-organized, selected material and photos—and discarded others. During this part of the process, I constantly reminded myself that the story is about the people of Las Vegas—to whom the book is dedicated.
ORP: What is the most compelling reason for people to buy this book?
Patti: It’s big, beautiful, and readable, and it tells stories of Las Vegas and its people.
ORP: What is the one thing you got out of this experience that will stay with you in your life and writing career?
Patti: This is my “last hurrah!” What will stay with me as I return to fiction-writing are the rewards of personal perseverance and accepting the help of others. I learned to co-ordinate and co-operate with staff, volunteers, a book designer, committee members, sponsors—and interviewers. A writer does not always write alone.
Photo Credit Romero: David P. Pascale
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