History of the Digital Archives Program

The Utah State Archives and Records Service has provided scanned images of sample records and documents online since at least 1999. With the widespread increase of all types of information online, it was clear that a more comprehensive program was needed. Former Governor Michael Leavitt provided one impetus upon leaving office in 2003, with his intention to make large portions of the records from his administration available online for public viewing. Initial funding enabled processing of some Leavitt records. Newly appointed division director Patricia Smith-Mansfield brought extensive experience with the CONTENTdm™ digital content management system from the Utah State Historical Society. Test scans of press releases were posted with the University of Utah's Marriott Library Digital Collections (which also hosted the digital collections of the Historical Society) in 2004. During 2005, processing and some scanning continued as personnel time was made available. Equipment was tested (and sometimes rejected), and over 800 video tapes were recorded on DVDs.

In the 2005 General Session of the Utah State Legislature, a one-time appropriation (HB 301) was approved for Preservation Services intended primarily for digitization. That funding was used for purchasing a microfilm roll scanner, a license for CONTENTdm™, and server storage space. In other words, the tools to let us increase the volume of digitization and making the digital images available online more quickly. As things do, it took some time to finish planning such large purchases. The CONTENTdm™ system was made available in June 2006 and testing began immediately. We had planned all along to use the "compound object" feature to properly tie different levels of records together, such as documents inside of folders, or to make sure that Page 2 of a letter came right after Page 1. However, much correspondence with technical support made it clear that we were using this feature to its fullest extent and some trial and error was to be expected.

By the end of 2006, approximately 40,000 images from Governor Leavitt's office and one or two other record series were online.

In 2007, additional records were targeted as part of a planned effort to make often-used paper and microfilm records available online. These included the large volume record series Board of Pardons' Prisoner pardon application case files and the House of Representatives Working bill files. Both were scanned from microfilm and then organized by staff into sensible folder for browsing and searching. The House bills began to come online in early 2008 and represented a newer process where the paper was prepped, microfilmed, inspected and then immediately scanned. This enabled some of the earlier sessions to be online before the whole series was even microfilmed. Senate Working bill files joined the Digital Archives in 2011.

In 2013, a major milestone was reached with over 1 million items online. That was followed by several new kinds of collections that expanded beyond a single record series, tied together by a topic such as an historical anniversary. This is now the way new collections are planned from the start, especially to bring together materials scattered across different offices and records to tell a single story.


The most popular digital records online are Death Certificates. With over 280,000 images, such a project was made possible by a partnership with the Genealogical Society of Utah (FamilySearch). They scanned the certificates from microfilm and then linked the images to existing name indexes for 1905 to 1956. The images went online in December 2006 and soon became very, very popular. We have continued adding more death certificates, plus birth certificates, as they have become public.

FamilySearch has continued to work closely with the State Archives by creating digital images of more records.

Page Last Updated March 17, 2022.