149 years of records: Canyon County task force strives to preserve documents, make them available to public

From the Idaho Press-Tribune

CANYON COUNTY — A local history committee has taken on the task of consolidating Canyon County records that date back almost 30 years before it officially became a county in 1892.

But these records have been spread out in six different locations and haven’t always been cared for properly, resulting in the loss of little pieces of history.

To prevent this destruction, and to take inventory of what records the county has on hand, three people have headed up a committee to gather up all the documents and store them at the courthouse.

“We really want to get our documents out of rented storage with no temperature control, and the dust blows through the door, and it’s not a good environment,” said County Clerk Chris Yamamoto, who started the Historic Records Retention Committee with Nampa Historic Preservation Commission’s Joe Bell and former chief deputy and county controller Chris Harris.

But it’s not an easy task.

“It all takes time, and it all takes money, … money that we just don’t have a budget for,” Yamamoto said. “So we’re looking to figure out who’s going to do it and how we’re going to pay for it.”

Government grants may be part of the answer, he said. Beyond that, the committee is being as frugal as possible.

For example, the county will renovate the fourth floor of the jail, which previously closed down because it was too expensive to maintain, and use it for document storage. Yamamoto already got free shelving for the storage area when a company moved and left the shelves behind.

“We’re getting this storage at a very low cost,” Yamamoto said, noting it will save clerks a lot of time by eliminating trips to find documents at an off-site storage location.

The next step is to organize the collection and make it more accessible to the public by digitizing it — a slow process that has to be done step by step as the money comes in, Yamamoto said.

Whether you’re a fourth-grader working on a school project or a genealogist, you deserve to be able to dig through your county’s historic records, Bell said.

“What I like about the data is it’s the people of Canyon County,” he said. “This is our story, it belongs to us.”

The committee will continue to organize the space in the courthouse to make the most of it, and hopes to move documents into the new storage area by early 2012.

“I’ve always been interested in history, but the older you get, the more important it becomes,” Yamamoto said.

From the Idaho Press-Tribune

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