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Paul Borelli Named 'History Hero'

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The man who literally surrounds himself with Parkersburg's history recently was recognized by the West Virginia Division of Culture and History for his efforts.

Paul Borelli, who runs Art Craft Studio on Market Street in Parkersburg, was one of nearly 50 people recently recognized as "History Heroes."

Groups and organizations that help preserve and disseminate West Virginia's history and historical resources have been recognized with the awards for more than a decade.

"History Heroes are individuals who go beyond the call of duty to ensure the success of local history, genealogy, preservation and museum organizations," said Division of Culture and History Deputy Commissioner Caryn Gresham. "Their combined work makes a statement most deserving of this statewide public recognition."

Borelli, 85, was been recognized as one of The State Journal's 55 Good Things About West Virginia in 2008, and he regularly speaks to the Wood County Historical Preservation Society.

Borelli keeps more than 750 framed, black and white, 8x10 prints that tell about 70 years of Parkersburg's history hung corner to corner on the peg walls of his shop.

He's amassed the photos and negatives since 1960, becoming the unofficial repository of Parkersburg's history, with about 8,000 negatives kept in storage. Borelli orders reprints of the photos for anyone who stops by and finds one or a few they like.

His gift to Parkersburg comes both from his organization and his memory bank.

Borelli keeps massive, three-ring notebooks that detail what he's got. So if a person would like a picture of, say, First Presbyterian Church, Borelli goes to his "bibles," then looks under the "F" to lead him to the church and any negatives depicting it.

For the details the picture doesn't show, Borelli has tales to tell for filling in countless blanks. And he believes in making history live through those photos and memories.

Borelli has said he believes in keeping the photos the way he does rather than entrusting them to a museum because families have given him their generations of memories when patriarchs pass.

He has called his business a "big responsibility," and said his biggest concern is making sure Parkersburg's history isn't left "in a box somewhere."