07/07/11 725 W, 1 I - + 3 - 3 Fire Department Milestones

It's a work in progress, our museum. Each month you'll probably see something different, mostly slight changes. Moving this, adjusting that. Plus some experimentation. Like this list of milestones. This one's a test version, printed on regular paper. Multiple sheets, placed together on poster board:

What's listed on the poster? See below. Where did that information come from? That's a longer story. Some ten years-worth of story, beginning with a narrative history of the Raleigh Fire Department that appeared in the 2002 commemorative book.

Took the electronic copy and added paragraph breaks after every single sentence. Converted the whole thing to a table. Added a column to the left, so every sentence had a cell to the left. Added dates (years) to each sentence. Thus creating a timeline.

Then commenced validating the information. Checking and correcting dates. Adding dates, where only estimates were known. Revising and adding new sentences. Meaning, the pieces of history themselves. Not everything to be known was listed in that document. (That line-by-line parsing was later transformed into web-based timeline pages.)

Over the next number of years, intensive, extensive, and sometime exhaustive research started filling in gaps. The first city retirements, for example. A retiree's daughter crossed paths with some firefighters one day. Maybe an engine company out and about. She told them that her father was the first retiree. From her to them to Mr. Legeros the information traveled.

Consulted my master list of personnel data. Took that person's "stop date" to the local history library, and started looking through News & Observer and Raleigh Times issues around that date. Found an article about a new city retirement system. Among the first of the retirees was a member of the fire department. 

Most of these milestones were already sufficiently documented. Some just needed specific dates and details. Everyone knew (or at least thought) that the original drill tower was built in the 1950s. Newspaper reports determined the construction year as in 1954.

Log books helped determine the date and details of the last box alarm received, a milestone in the transition between fire department dispatching and the new Raleigh/Wake County Emergency Communications Center in the early 1970s.

On a base level, the below list of milestones is entirely fine. Maybe more than fine. For presentation purposes, for hanging on a wall in a museum, it probably needs more. The best format is probably multi-column. Like a timeline, maybe horizontal, maybe vertical. We should list the fire chiefs in there, the biggest or most major fires, and probably some general historical context. Demographics, national events, etcetera. 

But it's a work in progress, like our museum. Hope to see you there Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

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