1/6/14

Two Sad Stories of Irreplaceable Historic Documents Destroyed

Image [cc] Chris Makarsky
There were a couple of incidents I read about over the weekend of government officials destroying unreplacable historic documents. The reasons for the destruction are not exactly clear, but it gives conspiracy theorists some interesting ideas of why officials would destroy the archives of which they are supposed to be caretakers for the next generations to come.

First there is the matter of the 100+ year old Franklin County, North Carolina documents that Diane Taylor Torrent of The Heritage Society of Franklin County, NC discusses in her Facebook post of Timeline of the Destruction of 100 Year Old Franklin County, NC Records. This involved the uncovering of a room in the Franklin county courthouse basement housing records going as far back as the 1840's. It is a facinating read of the difficulties that many archivists have to deal with when it comes to historical documents and the issues that come with time, water, mold, storage, and worst of all, government bureaucracy. Please take the time to read the story, but I'll be the spoiler here and let you know that the documents were all incinerated after the state archives stepped in and took control. I'm sure the state will eventually come back and say that the records were destroyed for "safety" concerns over mold, but one blogger has her own ideas on what may have occurred.

The other story came from Boing Boing called Canadian libricide: Tories torch and dump centuries of priceless, irreplacable envionmental archives. The Canadian govenment had made promises of selling or digitizing materials from the St. Andrews Biological Station in New Brunswick, as well as the Freshwater Institute in Winnipeg and the Northwest Atlantic Fisheries Centre in St. John's, Newfoundland. Instead, the records were simply destroyed. Sent off to landfills or burned. Some copies have been found overseas, according to an update, but the fact that no records were kept of what was destroyed leaves many pieces of the collection lost forever.

I have never been one of those fanatics that believes that everything should be kept forever. However, government archivists are caretakers of our past so that it may be passed on to those that come after us. There is a reponsibility for these caretakers to be both responsible in their actions, and to think beyond the needs of today. I sincerely hope that both the North Carolina Archives, and the Canadian governments have solid reasoning for their actions and publically disclose what they destroyed, what was kept through digital or other means, and specific reasoning for why they decided to burn or bury these historic documents.

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1 comments:

Steve Trubilla said...

Yet another disappointing moment in Franklin County, NC. Last night, 27 Jan 2014, 100% of democrat county commissioners rally around county manager and say the "burning" of historical records, some dating back to the civil war, was the right thing to do.

To add insult to injury in all of this the county manager, and person that gave the order to burn the records, has given a written statement pointing an accusing finger at the new Clerk of Superior Court for the destruction of the records.

The county manger is saying the Clerk of Courts authorized the destruction of the records. This is not true.

The county manager and others are selectively noting annotations on forms to advance their claim on this. The simple truth is the Clerk of Courts never signed anything requesting or authorizing the destruction of these records.

Trying to shift blame for this terrible and irresponsible act on the very person that uncovered it, and took action to protect the records is beyond wrong,it is despicable.

The Clerk of Courts was the one that found the records and pleaded that they not be destroyed.

The chairman of the board of county commissioners said the records were destroyed because they were contaminated with mold. They never even tested the records.

Commissioners Harry Foy and David Bunn (Republicans) apologized for the destruction of the records.

When citizens tried to complete statements at the meeting about this, commissioner Sidney Dunston refused to let them do so.

He said the rules for the meeting did not allow it.

The truth of what was done with this is not being told and now I see it being covered up.

Commissioner Shane Mitchell said he seen nothing wrong with what had been done, as the records had already be copied, had been recorded in other places, and or, were just old receipts.

He went on to say all the records had been inventoried before they were burned. I feel Mitchell may believe this to be true.

I can tell you with 100% certainly this is not the case. Hours before the records were removed to be burned I personally saw boxes of 8 X 10 sealed envelopes that had not even been opened. There is no way anyone knows what was in those envelopes. I also know from talking with the state archives a complete inventory was ever done.

Sometimes you have to call things for what they are. This is more than some people making innocent errors in what they are saying.

There are hard facts that prove these records were never inventoried. People are simply lying about this.

In add even more insult to injury now people are trying to gain political advantage from it.

 

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