Town preserves, digitizes old records

Mount Desert Town Clerk Claire Woolfolk points to books of old records in the Town Hall vault. ISLANDER PHOTO BY DICK BROOM

MOUNT DESERT — When Samuel Cony, a Republican, was elected governor of Maine in 1864, 86 voters in Mount Desert cast their ballots for him. Fifty-seven voted for the Democratic candidate, Joseph Howard.

Voting a straight party ticket was apparently as prevalent then as it is now.

In almost every race for state and local offices in 1864, Mount Desert gave 86 votes to the Republican and 57 to the Democrat.

We know that because of records in the Town Hall’s fireproof vault, some of which are extremely fragile.

Over the past few years, the town has had a number of its old documents preserved and digitized, including selectmen’s meeting minutes, town meeting warrants and reports and “vital records” of births, deaths and marriages.

The Board of Selectmen Monday night authorized Town Clerk Claire Woolfolk to spend $13,940 to have a few more batches of old records saved for posterity. The documents to be preserved in this round include miscellaneous town records from 1897-1916, marriage records from 1975-1994 and death records from 1963-1987.

Woolfolk described the very old miscellaneous town records that are to be preserved as “a mishmash of everything.”

“Back then, they would just record everything in one book,” she said. “That might include who had how much livestock, some vital records, a list of roads from that period.”

The town contracts with a company called Kofile to preserve and digitize documents.

“Preservation is taking the old books and papers and chemically treating them,” Woolfolk said. “They take the books apart and then rebind them. It’s a very laborious process. And the best time to do the digitization is when they are doing the preservation of the original document.”

According to Kofile’s promotional material, “most paper will gradually deteriorate over time and [the] content will be illegible and the paper will crumble.”

The preservation process, Kofile says, ensures that documents “will be available for use forever.”

Funds for the document preservation and digitization project come from the town’s budget for “historical preservation.” The town has earmarked $15,000 for that purpose in each of the past few years.

Dick Broom

Dick Broom

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Dick Broom covers the towns of Mount Desert and Southwest Harbor, Mount Desert Island High School and the school system board and superintendent's office. He enjoys hiking with his golden retriever and finding new places for her to swim. [email protected]
Dick Broom

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