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October 2005
Volume 1 No. 3

Utah Archives and Special Collections Libraries to celebrate Archives Month in October

Archives and records repositories throughout the Beehive State will observe Utah Archives Month during October 2005. The theme is "Archives: Utah's Best-Kept Secrets." Events include historical lectures by prominent scholars; tours of participating repositories; and family history classes. Governor Jon M. Huntsman Jr. will issue a Utah Archives Month declaration. The Utah State Archives and Utah State Historical Society jointly will observe "Archives Month" in October with a series of free research classes on Wednesdays and Fridays from noon to 1:00 p.m. Wednesday classes will be held in the Zephyr meeting room on the second floor of the north wing of the historic Rio Grande Depot at 300 S. Rio Grande Street (455 West) while Friday sessions are scheduled in the courtyard meeting room of the adjacent State Archives building at 346 S. Rio Grande Street. Free parking is available in the lot immediately north of the Rio Grande Depot. For information, please contact the Utah Historical Society information desk at 533-3500 or send email to historyresearch@utah.gov.

The October "Research at Noon" class schedule follows.

Wednesday, Oct. 5: "Opening the Vault: An Introduction to the Resources Provided by the Utah State Archives and Utah State Historical Society," presented by Jim Kichas, Gina Strack, Doug Misner, and Greg Walz.

Friday, Oct. 7: "How Records Get Here: Acquiring Records at the State Archives." presented by Pat Scott, Janell Tuttle, and Rosemary Cundiff.

Wednesday, Oct. 12: "Wake the Dead: Family History Resources at the Utah History Research Center" presented by Melissa Ferguson and Jim Kichas.

Friday, Oct. 14: "Peoples of Utah: Multicultural Resources at the Utah History Research Center" presented by Doug Misner and Gina Strack.

Wednesday, Oct. 19: "Archives for Discovery and Enhancement of Family History" presented by Holly Hansen (president, My Ancestors Found).

Friday, Oct. 21: Anniversary of the Bombings Related to the Mark Hofmann Forgeries presented by George J. Throckmorton (forensic documents examiner, director of the Salt Lake Police Department Crime Lab).

Wednesday, Oct. 26: "Researching Your Historic Home" presented by Alan Barnett.

Friday, Oct. 28: "Preserving Local Government Records: The Millennial Project, 1999-2005" presented by Pat Scott and Stuart Preece.

Tours of the archives building and remodeled depot and demonstrations of the archives building's new automated storage and retrieval system are also planned. The Utah History Research Center at the historic Rio Grande Depot is open Monday through Friday from 9 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., accommodating anyone who wishes to perform research before or after the brown bag lectures.

A Governors exhibit of items relating to of Utah's five most recent chief executives (Scott M. Matheson, Norman H. Bangerter, Michael O. Leavitt, Olene S. Walker, and Jon M. Huntsman Jr.) is also planned at the Rio Grande Depot during October. A schedule of Archives Month events statewide is posted on the Utah Archives Month web site, www.utaharchivesmonth.org.

Other participating institutions include the Utah State Historical Society, Salt Lake County Records Management and Archives, University of Utah Marriott Library Special Collections, Utah State University Merrill-Cazier Library Special Collections and Archives, Weber State University Stewart Library Archives and Special Collections, Brigham Young University Harold B. Lee Library Special Collections, Southern Utah University Library Special Collections, Westminster College Giovale Library, Catholic Diocese of Salt Lake City, and the Family and Church History Department of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter- day Saints.

Message from the Utah State Archivist

Division of Archives recovers missing document offered for sale by auction house

By Patricia Smith-Mansfield
Director

The mission of the Utah State Archives "is to assist Utah government agencies in the efficient management of their records, to preserve those records of enduring value, and to provide quality access to public information."

When the Archives preserves Utah's important government records, it preserves Utah's history. Historical records are preserved in order that they may be made available to the public for research and review.

When preserving the historical record, it is also important to maintain the context: Who created the records, how and when they were created are all key elements to the historical story. When part of the record is missing, then the complete history is not available.

The State Archives was fortunate this summer in recovering a piece of the historical record after an alert researcher in Nevada found it listed for sale in an online auction.

Richard E. Johnston of Reno, Nevada, a photographer for the Nevada Department of Transportation, was doing an Internet search in March when he came across a listing for a two-page letter from outlaw Willard E. Christiansen (a.k.a. Matt Warner, a member of Butch Cassidy's infamous "Wild Bunch") to Utah Governor Heber M. Wells written on March 1, 1900. The sale price was $5,999. Johnston recognized the letter as something he'd seen some 30 years earlier while doing research at the Utah State Archives in the mid 1970s. He recalled that then it was part of Governor Wells' collection. He doubted that the Archives would sell such a letter and wrote an email to advise the Archives and suggest that the Archives look into the matter.

Archivists compared the hard copy of the Wells correspondence with microfilm from May 4, 1981. The letter was included on the microfilm copy but the original paper copy was missing.

In follow up with the Nevada auction house, it was pleased to return the letter to its stewards at the Utah State Archives and its historical context. What makes this return more noteworthy is that as part of Governor Wells' correspondence, the letters' role in history becomes more complete. In fact, Governor Wells' answer to outlaw Willard E. Christiansen is also found in the records.

The Archives thanks Mr. Johnston for his watchfulness and assistance. Johnston wrote: "It is a crime that material is being stolen from so many archives for it deprives future researcher's insight into the past."

Johnston hopes that publicizing the matter "might either deter thefts or make the public and researchers online more aware of the problem.

"It makes me feel good to have saved that one document."

It makes the staff and patrons at Utah State Archives feel good as well.


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Judicial Records Preservation and Access Project under way

A project to accelerate implementation of a long-term plan to identify and preserve historical judicial records statewide throughout Utah as well as increase public awareness of the value and availability of these records is under way. Archivists anticipate that improved public access will stimulate interest in and dramatically boost use of historical court records.

The Utah Judicial Records Preservation and Access Project will target historical judicial records in Utah created prior to 1955 for archival processing (arrangement and description) and preservation microfilming. Included are probate, civil, and criminal records. The total volume of court records statewide (number of books, cubic feet, and microfilm reels) is unknown because holdings are widely dispersed among the Utah State Archives and the 29 district courts (one per county).

The overall goal is to increase access and security by archivally processing historical court records for the district courts statewide. Through preliminary inventories of the holdings of district courts in each county, the Utah State Archives will gain intellectual control over these valuable records and begin to relieve confusion for researchers and reference staff members and make the records more accessible to researchers.

To better manage the project, a multi-phase effort is planned. The initial phase involves archivally processing records for eight counties from three judicial districts in northern Utah. The volume of court records in phase I includes 663 books, 622 cubic feet of paper records, and 3,453 microfilm reels.

Court records are among the documents most frequently requested by researchers using the Utah History Research Center, a facility operated jointly by the Utah State Archives and the Utah State Historical Society. Judicial records in general, and the archivally processed records of the Third Judicial District, Salt Lake County, in particular, are used on a daily basis by a variety of researchers ranging from historians performing in-depth research (involving such topics as divorce or polygamy) to genealogists tracing family trees to one-time users seeking a copy of their divorce decree as documentation supporting a claim for benefits. Court records use accounts for an estimated 20-25 percent of the total number of research center requests.

By microfilming all court records, whether in the custody of the State Archives or the district courts, the records will be accessible through the Utah History Research Center, a facility which is set up to handle public requests (unlike the courts which primarily serve the legal system). Duplicate microfilm copies will make it possible for multiple research centers around the state to provide access to patrons. This arrangement relieves the courts which have limited space and time of having to provide public access.

Long-term preservation is another goal. Identifying historical court records and accounting for them through an inventory makes it possible for them to be preserved. Because of the fragile state of historic court records, repeated handling should be eliminated. Microfilming does away with the need for researchers to use original records.

Archives accessions court records

In July records analysis archivist Rosemary Cundiff and processing/reference archivist Jim Kichas inventoried the historic records of the Utah State Supreme Court. Their work uncovered an extremely valuable set of records which includes Supreme Court Minute Books (1859-1987), the Supreme Court Registers of Action (1861-1985), Record of Opinion Books (1877-1894), and two separate docket books (one from the Territorial Supreme Court and the other from the Territorial First District Court), both of which cover the timeframe between 1851 and 1857.

After arranging these records and creating a basic series level inventory, Rosemary and Jim were allowed to remove the records from the Supreme Court for transfer to the Utah State Archives in August of this year. Subsequently all of the records have been moved and are currently being processed and microfilmed for use in the Utah History Research Center. When available these books will be of immense research value as they include records related to a number of high profile court cases from Utah's past including an 1857 slave running case involving Pedro Leone, the 1877 appeal of John D. Lee regarding the fairness of his trial in conjunction to his role in the Mountain Meadows Massacre, and a number of high profile polygamy cases that help tell the unique story of a colorful period in Utah's history.

In July and August 2005 Utah State Archives accessioned civil and probate case files for Utah State Fourth District Court (Utah County) and for the Southern Division of the federal First District Court, which served Utah and neighboring counties during Utah's Territorial period. Provo was the court seat. First District Court probate records and civil cases files date back to the 1860s. The earliest First District Court docket book begins in 1852. The total volume of this acquisition is about 560 cubic feet of case files and an additional 350 volumes of court minutes, registers of actions and indexes. Archives staff anticipates that these acquisitions will be of great value to future researchers interested in Utah County.

This page was last updated August 1, 2008.