Utah Department of Administrative Services

Division of Archives & Records Service

Archives News, August 2008

Solving the dilemma of permanent retention with microfilm

In the current environment, where the vast majority of records exist electronically, record keepers are working to solve the problem of indefinite retention. NARA has budgeted more than three hundred million dollars for the creation of an Electronic Records Archives where national government records can be maintained indefinitely independent of any particular software and hardware. But for but smaller entities a more popular solution is still to retain permanent records on paper or microfilm.

The Utah State Archives has a healthy micrographics operation which not only microfilms records for state and local entities, but offers microfilm cameras for loan, training for camera operators, film development, and perpetual storage of microfilm masters. But with the growth of digital imaging, microfilm readers and cameras are becoming less popular and harder to maintain. Larger counties have purchased Archive-writers which convert scanned images to microfilm, but this equipment is cost prohibitive for smaller counties which sometimes have been both scanning and microfilming the same documents.

The Utah State Archives is working with a number of counties to solve this problem. The project began with Jeff Guyman, IT for Emery County, who had the idea that several small counties could go in together to purchase a digital image converter. Participating counties suggested that this equipment be placed at the State Archives. The Archives staff liked the idea and contacted all 29 counties to see how many would be willing to budget funds to purchase equipment. Fourteen counties committed and with their funds the Utah State Archives purchased a Staude SMA51, which will convert scanned images to either 35mm or 16mm microfilm. At 35mm, microfilm from this digital image converter is readable even for scans of large documents such as the large plat maps created by county recorders.

The process is simple. County officers scan original documents and save them as TIFF images which they move in batches into a folder on the state SFPT server. Archives staff accesses the files and uses the digital image converter to create microfilm. The digital image converter projects the scanned images one at a time onto a screen in a dark box, while a camera located in the top of the box photographs each image. The process is just getting started, but so far the images that have been microfilmed are coming out focused and clear. While this service currently is available only to participating counties, Archives staff anticipates that within the next year or two it will become much more widely accessible.

Court record preservation project completed

With the support of a grant from NHPRC, the Utah State Archives recently completed archival processing of the historic court records of Utah’s Territorial Second District Court and statehood Fifth District Court, which includes Washington, Beaver, and Iron Counties in southern Utah. These southwestern counties are along the Salt Lake City to California corridor, which, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, was a stage for conflict between Mormon settlers and outsiders, typically travelers and miners. The project makes this valuable historic record more accessible. Completion of this project involved accessioning, microfilming, and processing 229 cubic feet of civil, criminal, and probate case files as well as nearly 200 historic books, including minutes, registers, indexes, and record books. Finding aids for these records are now available on the archives web site, www.archives.utah.gov. Microfilm copies of these records are being placed in libraries at Southern Utah University in Cedar City and Dixie College in Saint George. In conjunction with this project the Utah State Archives has also posted online a statewide guide to district court records. This guide identifies the location of court records throughout the state, whether they have been transferred to the Archives or remain in the courts. For court records which have been processed, the guide also links to the finding aids.

Utah State Archives posts prisoner pardon application case files online

Digital images of thousands of applications from Utah prisoners to the Utah Board of Pardons have been posted online by the Utah State Archives and Records Service.  The Board of Pardon’s Prisoner’s Application Case Files, 1892-1949, is the newest addition to the Archives’ Digital Collections. The series include 8,772 case files.

Case files include a formal application for pardon, letters to the governor, petitions and letters of support from the public and public officials connected to the case. During the first 40 years, court transcripts, biographical sketches, prison evaluations, and a wide variety of related documentation such as personal data about the prisoner, criminal activity, family background and evaluation of the prisoner's adjustment to incarceration may be included. Cases illustrate the process of review by the Board of prisoners incarcerated in the Utah prison system in order to determine if they should be released before their regular sentence ended.
Among the case files is an application for the pardon of Joe Hill (aka Joseph Hillstrom), who was convicted of murder and executed by firing squad at the State Prison on November 19, 1915. The lengthy case file includes 62 pages of documents.

Researchers may access the prisoner’s applications at http://historyresearch.utah.gov/digital/328.htm.
Over 54,000 digital images were scanned from 53 microfilm rolls representing 27 cubic feet of paper records using a Mekel MACH IV microfilm roll scanner. Following digitization, archivists spent another six months preparing the case files for online display. The Archives plans to add other records in its holdings to its growing digital collections (http://historyresearch.utah.gov/digital/archives.htm). Digitization of other record series on microfilm is currently under way.

Utah State Archives staff news

Gregg Evans recently was hired as the Administrative Services Manager for the Utah State Archives. Evans graduated from the University of Utah with a finance degree and has several years of experience working with budgeting and accounting. Before coming to the Utah State Archives Evans worked as a financial analyst for the Utah Department of Corrections and, most recently, for the Utah Department of Transportation. Evans’s new responsibilities include budgeting and accounting functions as well as other administrative duties. Evans replaces Kerry Soelberg, who accepted a similar position with the Division of Child and Family Services.