Walking down a narrow hallway connecting two offices on the first floor of City Hall in early February, Ilene Simons, Salem’s seventh city clerk since the community’s transformation to a city in 1836, shares her trepidation in seeing the city archives leave Salem.
HIGH-TECH HISTORY Salem’s archives meet the digital age, placing public records at people’s fingertips…..
“They’ve never been out of my sight,” she says, stopping at one column of aged spines facing toward her. “I didn’t want to be the city clerk to lose the books.”…..
….“They (Image Data Inc.) handled them very well,” she says of the records, “and you couldn’t tell anything happened to them at all.” They are the workers at Image Data, an Albany, New York-based company that has been charged with digitally archiving the city’s records. Now in its third year, the project has already seen more than 1.1 million city records scanned…..
….I would’ve been thrilled if we put this system out and got to the six-year mark and had 100,000 devices connecting in, and I would’ve been thrilled if we had 20,000 records viewed,” Killen says. “We’re wildly over the top.” With so many department records available through the digital archive, the city’s own records seem to be drawing the bulk of attention. The most requested documents are town records from 1774 to 1818. The city clerk’s entire volumes from 1634 to 1865, along with the volume from 1881 to 1883, including those covering Salem’s first decades as a city, account for the top eight requested records……
….The project has also been memorable for those carrying it out. Marto compares his work on Salem’s archives with another major project where his company was given access to a daunting wave of Sept. 11, 2001, records, something he called “quite an accomplishment and an honor.” “We do fragile and historic books. Some of them date back even before (Salem),” Marto says. “There’s a lot of digitization that you do that’s just another job, but when you get into the historic records, something that’s meaningful, it stays with you.”
Interview with Salem, MA imaging project management staff: : https://youtu.be/t0LfFsyrJhQ