Monthly Archives: October 2013

Beyond the History: Archives Impact on Contemporary Life

In this day and age, many museums and archives are struggling to show the impact of their collections on life today. Most people see the value of keeping historical records to learn about the past, but it can sometimes be a struggle to see how those curiosities affect your day to day life.

The Wyoming State Archives is no stranger to this conundrum ourselves. We can easily point to portions of our collection with real, tangible impacts on the lives of Wyoming citizens but, unfortunately, these same documents are usually not the delightfully captivating historical oddities that make for great blog posts and PR campaigns. And since access to many of them is restricted, it can be hard to engagingly illustrate their existence. So we turn to words. Which can be boring. And easy for folks to skip over in favor of the colorful pictures of the cool historical stuff archives are better known for. <sigh>

Did you skip the first paragraph to look at this photo? You aren't alone.  (WSA P2011-4/1, Devils Tower with visitors, 1930, hand colored)

Did you skip the first paragraphs to look at this photo? You aren’t alone.
(WSA P2011-4/1, Devils Tower with visitors, 1930, hand colored)

But they do exist and they do make a big impact of the lives of average citizens.

Take, for instance, the retiree who is filing for Social Security or a military benefits  They may need a copy of their Decree of Divorce to prove their eligibility. In many cases, these district court case files have been transferred to us for safe keeping.

Or how about the person who is attempting to correct a mistake on their birth certificate or to obtain one for the first time. School district census records and newspaper birth announcements in our collection are invaluable to these citizens in proving their name, date and place of birth to the Vital Statistics office.

Court case files and school district census records are less interesting to look at than historical material, but they can have a profound impact on the life of Wyoming citizens.

Court case files and school district census records are less interesting to look at than historical material, but they can have a profound impact on the life of Wyoming citizens.

Proof of high school graduation has become a standard request for many employers looking to verify the credentials of potential employees as well as for non-traditional students going to college for the first time. Since the majority of Wyoming high schools transfer their inactive student records to us, there is a good chance that these folks will need to talk to us.

Oil and gas leases are big business and new oil and gas discoveries in the last few years have increased the number of researchers looking into land titles and mineral rights. Thanks to a microfilming project in the 1960s, we have copies of all 23 county clerks’ land records up to the mid-1960s available here in the reading room, lessening the wear and tear on both the original documents and the clerks’ staffs. Several clerks have also transferred their original record books to us, too. And then there are the district court probate files that record the distribution of these properties through estates to heirs. Without a clear chain of title, drilling may be delayed or even abandoned and royalty checks would not make it to their rightful recipients.

Uinta County Clerk deed books and mortgage index books on the shelf the shelf at Archives South.

Uinta County Clerk deed books and mortgage index books on the shelf the shelf at Archives South.

Our records also assist:

– Driver’s license/Real ID documentation

– FBI-NICS handgun background checks

– National criminal database updates

– Professional board background checks

– Proof of citizenship

– Real estate title work

– Restoration of rights

– Road right of ways and easements

– Water rights litigation

– Worker’s comp documentation/review

And the list goes on.

By statue, open public records must be available to citizens who request to view these documents, but the process can be come a logistical nightmare for staff in small offices with less than ideal storage situations. At a time when budgets are being stretched to their limits, few agencies and counties have the money for additional staff to manage and accessing inactive records or to build courthouse additions to store those same inactive records. But they don’t always need to. Instead, they can often utilize our staff and storage space, freeing themselves to focus on new record creation. This increased efficiency leads to a monetary saving to taxpayers who are not asked to approve additional funding for capitol construction projects or hiring additional staff.

Vault of Laramie County Treasurer's Office before many of the books were transfered to the Archives, 1970s (WSA Sub Neg 9262a)

Laramie County Treasurer’s Office vault in the 1970s before many of the books were transferred to the Archives.
(WSA Sub Neg 9262a)

Thank you for taking the time this October to go behind the scenes with us and explore the work we do here at the Archives to keep Wyoming’s documentary heritage available for future researchers. We love what we do and are passionate about archives and records management. As always, we invite you to visit the Archives on your next trip to Cheyenne or contact us with any questions.

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Happy MOvember!

It’s that time of year again. Fall is definitely here, Thanksgiving is just a couple weeks away and mustaches are starting to pop up on faces all over Wyoming. Must be MOvember!

In honor of Men’s Health Awareness Month, men across the country are sporting mustaches for the month of November. What better way to celebrate (and to provide some historical inspiration) than to showcase some of the epic ‘staches in Wyoming history! Starting Friday, November 1st, we will be featuring some of the facial hair, and men behind it, that has made Wyoming great. Tune in tomorrow to find out about our poster ‘stache!

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Creating New Counties in 1911

This year, we are celebrating the centennial of the organization of 7 of Wyoming’s 23 counties: Campbell, Goshen, Hot Springs, Lincoln, Niobrara, Platte and Washakie Counties. This was the largest group of counties organized at one time in Wyoming’s history. But the story starts a few years earlier….

In his 1911 State of the State speech, Governor Joseph M. Carey tasked the Legislature with creating new counties in the state. Despite more than doubling in population since statehood in 1890,[1] Wyoming had added only one new county by 1911. [2] Expansion into the less populated areas of the state meant that these new residents did not have ready access to or representation in county government. Population growth was encouraged and there were great hopes for its continuance. In his speech, Governor Carey said

“It is to be hoped that the conditions before many years will not only justify, but demand many new counties. In providing the boundaries for new counties, future divisions should be taken into consideration.” [3]

The Legislature took Carey’s words to heart and 17 bill for the creation of new counties were introduced. A couple of the counties, like Hot Springs, had been narrowly defeated during the 1909 session and were nearly certain to pass during this term. In fact, Hot Springs, Platte, Goshen and Washakie Counties became Enrolled Acts 2, 3, 4 & 5.[4]  Campbell and Niobrara soon followed as Enrolled Acts 11 & 12.

1911 proposed counties map

This map shows the outlines of the 17 counties proposed by the 1911 Legislature. The counties that were created are outlined in black. The counties that failed to pass are colored in and named. (WSA 1911 Map of Wyoming with annotations by the author)

Debate began to heat up when Golden Prairie and Waconda/Center Counties [5] were discussed. These three bills were proposed and backed groups and individuals especially interested in bringing new settlers to the state to civilize the plains through homesteading and dry land farming. After some debate, all three bills were “postponed indefinitely.”

The majority of the division debate came during the discussion of if or how to divide Uinta County. In 1911, Uinta was the only one of the five original counties created in 1869 to retain its original borders, which stretched from the Utah border north to Yellowstone. It was also the largest of Wyoming’s 14 counties and thus a great candidate for division. Seven bills were introduced between the House and Senate proposing to create new counties out of Uinta County. All but two of these options stayed exclusively within Uinta’s boundaries.[6]

1911 HB 198, creating and forming of Bridger County

1911 House Bill 198 “An Act creating and forming the County of Bridger…” Bridger County would have been created around the town of Kemmerer in what was then southern Uinta County.

If the Evanston and Kemmerer newspapers are to be believed, this call for division of Uinta County blindsided many of the residents who remained opposed to the division. Opponents argued that the division was that the much smaller Uinta County would be unable to support itself and that all money the county had invested in road improvement would be lost. Proponents argued that it was nearly impossible for communities in the northern part of the county, like Jackson, to be fairly represented in county decisions due to their great distance from the county seat in Evanston. They also felt that the interests of the northern and southern portions of the county differed dramatically but that the larger population in the south eclipsed the voices of the north. Just days before the end of the session, it looked like the county would remain in tact and all crisis seemed to be averted. All 6 of the bills  introduced at that point had been defeated. Then in the 11th hour, House Bill 203 passed, creating Lincoln County and reducing Uinta County to its current size.

The Legislature passed several other bills relating to county organization and creation during the 1911 session. These bills called for the rewriting of the boundaries of the counties to reflect Federal land surveys and fast tracked the process of organizing new counties, among other things. One bill that did not pass sought to restrict the names of new counties to native words and names or to words reflecting the natural landscape.

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Several documents, including the unsuccessful bills to divide Uinta County, are currently on display in the Wyoming State Archives Reading Room in honor of Archives Month. 

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1. Wyoming’s population in 1890 was 62,555. By 1910, it had grown to 145,965.

2. Park County was created in 1909.

3. 1911 Senate Journal, p.21

4. The bill for Goshen County originally called for it to be named Warren County in honor of Senator and former Governor Francis E. Warren. Likewise, Washakie County was to be called Hanover County. Thanks to an error by a Denver map company, there are maps that include “Hannover” County.

5. Waconda County was introduced as Senate File 101 and Center County as House Bill 59. Both used the same geographic boundaries and were essentially 2 bills for the creation of the same county. Both bills failed.

6.Wyoming County was introduced as House Bill 202 and Senate File 59 and included land within both Uinta and Fremont Counties. With a few adjustments, this area would be created as Sublette County in 1921.

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Archives Month display in New Case

We have our first exhibit up in the new case! In honor of Archives Month and the centennial of the 7 counties’ organization, the display features materials related to the creation of the counties, irrigation and dry land farming. Stop by and see it when you come to hear Dr. Phil Roberts’ talk on the 24th.

Archives Month display 10-14-2013 deriv

For those of you who can’t make it in or who would like to know more about the items on display, we will be highlighting some of the items each day next week, so stay tuned!

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Recycling Victorian Style

Scrapbooking was nearly as popular in the 1880s-1890s as it is today. Unlike today’s creations, these books were heavy on the scrap, including everything from newspaper clippings, programs, and letters to flowers, ribbons, charms and even chewing gum. Though there were dedicated “books” on the market, some even boasted moisten-able strips, these were usually expensive. So what was the stylish but frugal teenager/woman to do? Reuse catalogs of course!

Catalogs were expensive to produce and were often printed on heavy paper and bound like a book. As long as you didn’t mind the ghosts of their former use peeking out between your scraps, they were perfect candidates for reuse.

Below are a couple of examples of these wonderful recycled scrapbooks from the collection.

Cover of two catalogs turned scrapbooks. A peak inside shows the clever re-purposing of the bound catalogs.

Cover of two catalogs turned scrapbooks. A peak inside shows the clever re-purposing of the bound catalogs. (WSA H64-66)

Behind the newspaper clippings pasted on this page, you can see an elaborate chandelier

Behind the newspaper clippings pasted on this page, you can see an elaborate chandelier

Here you can see a gas light.

Here you can see a gas light.

The subject of this catalog becomes clear when you read the description left under these two clippings. "Fancy Moulded White Casket with Fance Corners..."

The subject of this catalog becomes clear when you read the description left under these two clippings. “Fancy Moulded White Casket with Fancy Corners…”

A lovely and ornate casket peaks out from behind this etching of the John Hunton Ranch.

A lovely and ornate casket peaks out from behind this etching of the John Hunton Ranch.

You can just make out part of a set of pillars designed to display a casket in a funeral parlor.

You can just make out part of a set of pillars designed to display a casket in a funeral parlor.

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Where Does It All Come From?

We have a LOT of records here at the Archives. And I mean a LOT!

Looking down the main aisle of Archives South, our off-site storage building. The bound volumes are county clerk record books from across the state.

Looking down the main aisle of Archives South, our off-site storage building. The bound volumes are county clerk record books from across the state.

All told, we have roughly 84,000 cubic feet of material between the Archives (permanent records) and State Records Center (semi-permanent records), and that number is growing all the time.

The wall of boxes on the main aisle of the State Records Center. Each of those boxes is considered 1 cubic foot. And they are stacked 2 deep on the shelves!

The wall of boxes on the main aisle of the State Records Center. Each of those boxes is considered 1 cubic foot. And they are stacked 2 deep on the shelves!

So where do the records come from? The quick answer is from everywhere.

The vast majority of records are transferred to us from state and county offices. These are records that have been designated as semi-permanent or permanent records and are no longer in regular use by the departments who created them. In many cases, the agencies do not have the space to store the records, nor the staff to provide adequate access them. That is where we come in. The Archives centralizes the storage and reference access to these little used but still vital records, freeing space and staff time for the creating agencies.

While some agencies are able to bring their boxes to us, others rely on our annual transfer trips. Every summer we send out two staff members in a truck for 3-4 days travel in one of three regions to pick up records. This year, we picked up nearly 400 cubic feet!

Records Analyst Lisa Hasting, in red, stacks boxes in the truck during a transfer trip stop in Casper this June.

Records Analyst Lisa Hasting, in red, stacks boxes in the truck during a transfer trip stop in Casper this June.

The rest of our collection has come to us by generous donation from the public. These are non-governmental records, like photographs, manuscripts, family, business and club papers. We are always excited to see what treasures folks have found and brought in.

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1010 = Electronic Records Day!

10 reasons for e-records 2013

Today, October 1010th (that is 10 in binary code), has been designated Electronic Records Day 2013 by the Council of State Archivists (CoSA) to raise awareness of digital records and the need to manage and preserve them.  What is so special about digital records? Let us count the ways…

10 Reasons Why 

Electronic Records Need Special Attention

1. Managing electronic records is like caring for a perpetual toddler: they need regular attention and care in order to remain accessible.

2. Electronic records can become unreadable very quickly. While records on paper can sometimes be read after thousands of years, digital files can be virtually inaccessible after just a few.

3. Scanning paper records is not the end of the preservation process: it is the beginning. Careful planning for ongoing management expenses must be involved as well.

4. There are no permanent storage media. Hard drives, CDs, Magnetic tape or any other storage formats will need to be tested and replaced on a regular schedule. Proactive management is required to avoid catastrophic loss of records.

5. The lack of a “physical” presence can make it very easy to lose track of electronic records. Special care must be taken to ensure they remain in controlled custody and do not get lost in masses of other data.

6. Shared documents can be hard to authenticate. It is easy to create copies of electronic records and share them with others, but this can raise concerns about the authenticity of those records. Extra security precautions are needed to ensure e-records are not altered inappropriately.

7. The best time to plan for electronic records preservation is when they are created. Don’t wait until software is being replaced or a project is ending to think about how records are going to be preserved.

8. No one system you buy will solve all your e-records problems. Despite what vendors say, there’s no magic bullet that will manage and preserve your e-records for you.

9. Well managed electronic records can help ensure the rights of the public through greater accessibility than ever before. This can only happen if creators, managers and users all recognize their importance and contribute resources to their preservation.

10. While they may seem commonplace now, electronic records will form the backbone of the historical record for researchers of the future. 

Remember, archivists and records managers are here to help you tackle these difficult problems. Contact us here at the Archives if you have questions or would like to learn more about our current digital repository project.  Through this project, we hope to ensure that electronic records created today by Wyoming State government offices remain accessible for generations to come!

(Thank you to CoSA for this top 10 list and for sponsoring 2013 Digital Records Day)

P.S. Wondering how digital records are important to the individual and how to mitigate risks to your personal files? Check out this great video from the Library of Congress.

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We Like Big Books And We Cannot Lie…

Big books are not rare here in the Archives, but one set takes the cake.

That is one BIG book!

That is one BIG book!

Measuring a staggering 20 inches x 40 inches x 3 inches, and requiring 2 staff member to move, the Laramie County Combined Assessment Roll and Tax List, Real and Personal Property, and Poll books from the first quarter of the 1900’s are massive. When open, the books spans 2 carts and 77 inches!

So why would a county possibly need with a book this big? As the title says, these books were kept by the County Assessors Office to keep track of tax assessment rates, whether the taxes were paid, and also functioned as voters registration records all in one place, rather than in 3 separate books.

The green paper is a standard letter size sheet.

The green paper is a standard letter size 8.5″ x 11″.

Due to the size of the books, it is difficult to bring the originals in for research. For this reason, the books are available on microfilm in the Reading Room, saving the books (and our backs!) from wear and tear.

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Boxes, Boxes Everywhere…

One of the most asked questions by researchers visiting our Reading Room is “Where do you store all of your records?” The true archival enthusiast usually follows that question with “Can I see?” In the spirit of these inquiries, here is an illustrated overview of our storage areas.

Barrett Building Exterior, oblique showing windows and entry 10-1-2013

Two of our storage areas are located on-site at the Barrett Building.

We currently house around 84,000 cubic feet of records in the Archives and State Records Center. The boxes and volumes are stored in one of three storage areas, two within our building and one in a building on the other side of town.

Rolling shelving saves space in the Records Room.

Rolling shelving saves space in the Records Room.

The first of the storage areas in the building is directly off the Reading Room and is fondly called the Records Room. Because of its convenient location, this is where we store the records that are requested most often and those that require the most regulated environment. These records include high school transcripts, governor’s records, Secretary of State corporation files, school district censuses, early Board of Charities and Reform inmate files and mug shots, and all of our non-government collections. Our photograph files, historic maps, oral history collection and historical library of books related to Wyoming history are also found here.

One drawer of many that hold rolls of security microfilm.

One drawer of many that hold rolls of security microfilm.

The second on-site storage area is not quite as convenient, but it still offers a very stable environment. While we call it the Microfilm Vault, it is more of a storeroom than a true vault. Here, we keep the security copies of our microfilm (we can use these to create high quality duplicates for research as needed). Our photograph collection negatives and over-sized prints also live here.

Looking down main aisle  of shelving at Archives South. The State Records Center is on the other side of the long wall to the right and looks very similar.

Looking down main aisle of shelving at Archives South. The State Records Center is on the other side of the long wall to the right and looks very similar.

Archives South/State Records Center, our off-site facility, houses the majority of our holdings.  The State Records Center provides state and local offices with a safe, secure and efficient off-site storage for their semi-permanent records. Semi-permanent records are those that are no longer needed for daily business, but must be kept for a specified period of time before they are destroyed. Archives South stores permanent records that are not used as frequently as those on-site. Court case files, original county clerk record books, commercial and residential building plans, and nearly all of the state agency records are stored here.

(While we cannot always indulge the spontaneous request, we do try to schedule tours of our facilities for the curious. Please contact us if you are interested in scheduling a tour for your group.)

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Coming Soon….

If you’ve stopped by the Archives in the last week, you’ve probably seen (or tripped over) the latest addition to the Reading Room.

Its a work in progress.

It’s a work in progress.

While it may not look like much right now, the case will soon give us a snazzy new place to show off records from the collection. The case has had quite a bit of experience displaying treasures before it came to us. Originally built to house a shoe exhibit in the Wyoming State Museum, the case most recently held the beautiful USS Wyoming silver service before the silver was moved to a built-in case.

After a couple of years in storage, the case needs a little TLC, but we think it will be a wonderful new complement to the small case we currently use. The new case will also give us the opportunity to display larger items that didn’t fit well into the old case, like maps, albums and ledger books.

Airing out the new fabric. Whose up for camping in the Archives?

Airing out the new fabric. Whose up for camping in the Archives?

To spruce it up, we’ve polished and oiled the base, purchased a brand new Plexiglass vitrine (complete with a UV limiting coating, of course) and some beautiful new fabric to replace the blue velvet. But all this newness could spell trouble for the documents on display if we aren’t careful. New materials tend to “off gas,” or give off fumes that are potentially harmful to paper, especially in an enclosed box like a display case. Over time, the fumes subside, so we are giving the new materials a bit of time to air out before installing the exhibit. We’ll keep you posted on the progress, so check back soon!

RR, new display case and old, lockers, 10-4-2013 deriv

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