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Subject: Housing county records

Housing county records

From: Jo Anne Martinez-Kilgore <carino>
Date: Thursday, March 21, 2002
Background: I am working with one of the County Clerks Offices here
in New Mexico to make improvements on the storage conditions for the
records--books (registry of brands, deed books, record books etc.),
manuscripts (mining claims, probate letters, tax liens etc.),
architectural drawings and reproductions (subdivision plats) and
microforms.  Since I am new to the preservation concerns of county
records I am quite struck by the awesome responsibility that county
clerks hold; by law, to make these records accessible to the public
and to preserve these records.

Coming from the background of large institutions I wonder sometimes
if the advice I am giving them is at all realistic to the use
demands and financial constraints that they face.  Yet I am not
eager to compromise because of the poor decisions I have seen made
in the past--wooden storage cabinets (specially constructed just 2-3
years ago), hanging storage for architectural records, PVC sleeves.
In addition, there are very few security precautions (general public
has free access to vault) in place and the environment is poor
(great fluctuations in temperature and humidity).  Indeed, the event
that started my relationship with the county government system was a
water line break, in the pipes that travel openly through the vault
area.  The building is from the 1930's and has experienced deferred
maintenance for the last few decades.  The recommendations that I am
making seem very difficult to carry out from their
perspective--storing architectural records flat rather than hanging,
discarding PVC sleeves and replacing with polyester sleeves,
limiting access to the vault area, monitoring the environment,
carrying out a risk assessment.

A preservation services company (Brown's River Records Preservation)
was called in immediately after the water line break. Among other
recommendations they gave was a suggestion that the county utilize
modular vaults to protect their records from fire.  The clerk's
office has embraced this idea as a solution to many of their
problems. I have been researching the modular vaults and see that
there are numerous vendors marketing these, such as Firelock, VSI,
Hamilton, Graffunder, and National Safe and Security.  The idea that
such a vault could be constructed within the existing structure is
attractive.  My worry is that the vault only solves a limited number
of problems yet is a great monetary investment.  Another worry is
that this solution is being marketed inappropriately for county
records when their use is ideally suited to businesses that need to
protect electronic media.

I am interested in hearing from anyone who has worked with county
records and has explored the option of utilizing modular vaults.
Can they actually provide the environmental conditions conducive to
proper records storage for a variety of media?  Are they cost
effective? Thank you, in advance, for any assistance.

Jo Anne Martinez-Kilgore
Carino Conservation of Books and Paper
1608 Los Arboles Ave. N.W.
Albuquerque, New Mexico  87107

                  Conservation DistList Instance 15:64
                 Distributed: Thursday, March 21, 2002
                       Message Id: cdl-15-64-009
Received on Thursday, 21 March, 2002

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