04 January 2016

Considerations for Archiving Cherry County Governmental Records

Unique in perspective, the official records of Cherry county convey precise details of the life and times of residents for more than 130 years. Once initially created, the necessities have been continually updated on a regular basis by county staff and officials. The source documents are various sorts of bound books or singular pieces of paper which indicate marriages, land transactions and associated deed records and prices, mortgage specifics, interments at county cemeteries, taxation particulars which indicate the progress of county residents, and other miscellany associated with the history of the county and its people.

Most of the information, especially for past times associated which convey some wonderful details for the early years of county history, are stored on paper-based documents kept within the county building – some in the basement - at Valentine. Only a small portion of this historic record is available via an up-to-date electronic method.

In order to retain the history extant within the county records, it is essential that a permanent, digital record of the material be initiated and established, using acceptable and current methods of historic preservation.

There are numerous steps to initiate an effort to suitably conserve the original history of Cherry county. They include, but are not necessarily limited to these items:

1. Identify all source documents, and list them in a catalog to ensure that each and all items are documented and known and identified as a part of the county records.
2. Ensure safe and suitable storage of source documents to do the best possible to keep them in the best possible condition for the long-term.
3. Determine how to digitize source documents; this facet includes many issues including which record sources to start with, how they should be digitized (including consultation with an archival professional(s) to determine any equipment needs, establish protocols to indicate proper file format, file naming conventions, key word details, content topics and grouping, etc.).
4. Establish a suitable means of public access so source documents can be reviewed in a manner that will ensure they are not stolen, damaged, nor diminished in any manner; including the need for users to pay an access fee to assist with document retention and provision, if deemed appropriate.
5. Evaluate any opportunities for grants or other sources of funding to assist in the conservation of county history; these may include private donations, county funds, state of Nebraska funding, or perhaps even national entities that would contribute to the preservation of history associated with the county.

County officials can, and should as soon as possible, establish permanent protocols to ensure ongoing record conservation and establishing archival records. Efforts need to be done to establish an inclusive and permanent archive for the wonderful source documents of information associated with the expansive history of the residents of rural Cherry county. This effort will obviously require funding. Foremost should by a fund to be established by county officials to initiate the ongoing effort. An initial amount of county funds need to be designated to establish a Cherry County Record Archive.

DRAFT documented submitted first via email to the Cherry County Commissioners for discussion at the 29 December 2015 meeting. Prepared by James E. Ducey, Valentine; and creator of the digital archive of the Great American Sandhills. The one-page document was prepared in response to a request by a county commissioner.

Addendum to Document

The request for record access was discussed at the county commissioners meeting in the morning on the 29th. There are considerations that need to be addressed. This topic is not a usual consideration for county officials. There was consensus on moving forward on this matter. A protocol needs to be defined, especially regarding how the records would be accessed in a manner that would not be an undue burden on county staff, as well as an appropriate space suitable for a researcher to review the records.

Following the meeting, an email request was sent to an archival specialist at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, asking for suggestions on how to implement proper archival methods. This was in response to a request by a commissioner member. A question at the meeting was: Have other counties undertaken a similar effort.

Commissioners Adamson, Storer and Van Winkle have been receptive to records access, and have also been suitably considering the means and methods to conserve the history associated with Cherry county records.

On December 30th there was also a discussion with Eric Scott — the Cherry County attorney — on this matter, as the commissioners had asked that a "request" be provided in regards to records access. The question of the day was what the request should include and how it might best be conveyed? A secondary question was about a charitable foundation where tax-deductible funds might be denoted to help fund a "Cherry County Heritage Project." Other birdly topics of common interest were also a part of the discussion at his main street office in Valentine.

The three commissioners are supportive, as are county officials. It is the methods that need to be determined. Rightely, county officials are ensuring that the records are properly dealt with to ensure long-term considerations of suitably maintaining the records, while allowing public access.

This document is posted for archival purposes.

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