Lake County historical records to be restored, digitized
In a sense, something old will become new again as handwritten Lake County records, some dating to the 1830s, are protected and digitized.
The county board recently approved an $85,547 contract with Byers Printing Company of Springfield to restore 202 volumes of historical county board and vital records.
"It's so important not only to retain our history but the archives behind it," board member John Wasik said during a discussion of the contract and process.
Both the county board and vital records documents are often referred to by individuals, genealogists and governments for personal information or historical resolutions and ordinances.
But the volumes slowly have been deteriorating. And as frequent handling causes more wear and tear, officials are concerned they may be beyond repair in a few years.
"When I bring the books up, they're falling apart," said Karen Brush, executive assistant to County Clerk Robin O'Connor. "We wear gloves when we touch them."
Although Brush deals regularly with the old volumes, there is always something to learn, she added.
"Sometimes, just paging though the books, I have to stop and start reading -- it's very interesting," Brush said.
As the keeper of records, the county clerk has a storehouse of information, including handwritten minutes of meetings and marriages starting in 1839, as well as birth records beginning in 1871 and death records from 1877.
But because of their age, there are issues. Putting the books in more secure binding and archival paper coverings will preserve them, according to the funding request.
"Much of the information contained in these books is not kept in any other format in any other county department," the request says. "Continual decay of the covers and pages will eliminate these references completely."
Byers' price includes: scanning 89,587 pages and delivering high-resolution files and optical discs; rebinding and laminating 70 vital records books at $750 per book; and, rebinding 25 county board books at $486 per book depending on the materials selected.
A digital archive will be created and is expected at some point to be searchable on the county's website.
After everything is scanned, the information will need to be indexed so there is an easy way to search, Brush said.
That would eliminate the need to unnecessarily page through many books to find documents and reduce staff time spent finding material for Freedom of Information and other requests, according to the funding request.
Brush said there are about 120 books of vital records and 61 county board books to be restored.
"We'd like to have the records available to search for things but it's the preservation of history that's important to us," she added.