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Preserving history: Archive process continues

More than $1,000 in filing fees has already been collected by the County Clerk’s Office for the establishment and operation of a Washington County Archive.
Members of the Public Records Commission shared the information during a July 7 conference call with representatives from the Tennessee State Library and Archives.
John Kiener, a member of the Public Records Commission, asked the TSLA staff to provide direction to the Washington County Records Management and Archives Department, which became official July 1.
“Your first step is to gather the forces and create an inventory,” said Jami Awalt, of the Archives Development Program. “You need a sense of what you have before you determine where you go.”
Awalt suggested identifying the earliest and latest dates of each kind of record in storage and whether they are still being generated. This part of the inventory collection will point out significant gaps in information, she said.
An inventory is also required when applying for grants.
The TSLA Archives Development Program administers the direct grants to local government archives provided by the Tennessee General Assembly. Awalt said sustainability is the No. 1 consideration in awarding the grants.
“We need to know the county is committed,” she said.
The next two steps in archive development are processing and providing public access, she said.
Processing involves the unfolding, cleaning and indexing of records, which can take years to complete. A large area in the archive should be designated for processing since it will be done over a long period of time, she added.
Awalt said access to records should not be allowed until they have been processed.
Assistant State Archivist Wayne Moore, who previously toured the Washington County Office Building where the Archive will set up shop, said he thinks the archive contents could be moved into the building prior to any necessary renovations.
As far as securing a trained archivist to lead the Washington County program, Moore believes the area pool would offer good candidates to choose from.
He estimated a salary of $25,000 to $30,000 would recruit an entry level archivist, while a salary in the range of $45,000 would secure an archivist with master’s degree experience.
Prior to the meeting, commission members and several office holders toured the former jail in the Washington County Courthouse to review available storage space for records needing to be moved from the Downtown Centre.
The group agreed a good amount of space is available, and additional expansion could come from removing the metal doors of the cells and counters in a kitchen area.