Document preservation priorities discussed

WESTFIELD – The Historical Commission continued its discussion of the city’s historical document preservation program last night after consultations with a town official from Southwick, where the project has recently been completed.
Commission Chairwoman Kitt Milligan said that she and City Clerk Karen Fanion spoke with Southwick Town Clerk Michelle Hill in early June about that town’s record and historical document preservation program.
“Michelle described the process and barriers she encountered,” Milligan said during her report to the commission. “What Michelle did was to take one person from her office to organize the files, a ‘hands-on’ review of every document.”
“Westfield is a much larger community and the number of records is much greater. It’s a daunting task but I think that down the road someone from the clerk’s office will have to start organizing the city’s records,” Milligan said. “Westfield already has some records in folders, organized. Karen (Fanion) has a clearer understanding of the process after speaking with Michelle.”
“It’s a huge project and part of this commission’s responsibility is to ensure it moves forward,” Milligan said. “The mayor is on board and has alerted department heads that this is coming down the road.”
Milligan said that cost of preserving the city’s huge document collection will also have an impact on the preservation effort.
“The city is going to have to decide what will be preserved because preservation of some documents will be cost-prohibitive,” Milligan said. “One of the reasons that City Hall needed to be repaired was that it was sagging under the weight of all of the records stored in the building, so we may have to set priorities.”
Hill also warned that when Southwick was interviewing vendors for the preservation work, in particular for the electronic digitization of records, the vendors planned to ship the records overseas where labor costs are much lower.
“I don’t want our records taken out of the city. I want that work done on site so we maintain control,” Milligan said.
The project is currently at a standstill because records have been moved to other municipal buildings during the City Hall renovation, “but the renovation seems to be ahead of schedule,” Milligan said.

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