- News from the Pennsylvania State Archives
The State Archives is part of the Pennsylvania Historical and Museum Commission (PHMC) and is responsible for maintaining the permanently valuable records of the Commonwealth. The Archives' web page is accessible by going to the PHMC website at: www.phmc.state.pa.us, and click on the left navigation link, "PA State Archives." The Archives' web page includes descriptions of its holdings.
Archives Receives NHPRC Grant for Basic Processing of Holdings
To help preserve Pennsylvania's rich documentary heritage, the Pennsylvania State Archives was awarded a $166,298 grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) in July of 2010. The grant will enable Archives to increase public accessibility and intellectual control for its records holdings, specifically to create an estimated 2,000 online series descriptions and document shelf locations for 26,000 cubic feet of unprocessed records (44% of the Archives' Record Group [End Page vii] holdings), as well as establish new accessioning procedures to eliminate future backlogs.
Over the course of the past three decades, the quantity of records accessioned into the Archives holdings has steadily increased, while the number of employees available to process them has steadily decreased. Traditional processing techniques have become cumbersome and are no longer viable. With this grant, he Archives will embrace in part the "more product, less process" concept, whereby a minimum standard for processing is accepted and made a benchmark for all future accessions. Two full time archivists have been hired for the eighteen month project. They are writing series descriptions of the unprocessed material and placing these descriptions on the State Archives website, accessed via www.phmc.state.pa.us. By the time the project is finished in early 2012, this information will be readily accessible to the public.
Itinerant Archivist Program
The State Archives, working in conjunction with the County Commissioners Association of Pennsylvania (CCAP) and the Pennsylvania State Historical Records Advisory Board (SHRAB), has been running an innovative project that will substantially impact the archival and records management infrastructure within Pennsylvania's county governments. The project calls for an itinerant archivist to visit participating county courthouses to help prioritize and address their archival and records management needs and issues. The Archives received an NHPRC grant in December 2007, concentrating on two regions of the state, commencing in the southwest region in 2008 and continuing with the northeast region in 2009. The Archives has just received another grant in July 2010 to continue the work, this time for other counties throughout the state. The assistance the archivist, Heather Heckman, provides will vary among participants based upon each county's unique situation and priorities. She is available on-site for up to eight weeks at each participating county and addresses a full range of archival and records management issues, including, but not limited to:
• consultation and training on archival/records management principles
• assessment and advice on improving physical storage areas
• inventory and identification of records for destruction, microfilming or permanent storage [End Page viii]
• aid in compiling a records disaster or vital records plan
• help with identifying possible grant projects
So far, Ms. Heckman has accomplished a lot of critical work specific to each county's needs, including inventorying tens of thousands of cubic feet of records, creating floor plans for storage areas, drafting disaster and vital records plans and county records manuals, as well as writing reports and recommendations for many individual county offices.
Participating counties must complete a short application and self assessment, be able to allocate a staff member(s) to help the itinerant archivist and PSA staff along the process, and must undertake a financial commitment of at least $2,500 towards records preservation within their county.
For more information, interested counties should contact Susan Hartman, Project Coordinator, at 717-787-3913 or e-mail RA-LocalGovernment@state.pa.us.
State Budget Crisis Affects Archives
Due to budgetary cutbacks, the State Archives has lost several staff members and is now closed on Tuesdays, as well as Mondays.
MARAC in Harrisburg
The State Archives will be the center of attention when the Mid-Atlantic Regional Archives Conference (MARAC) holds its fall meeting in Harrisburg on November 11-13. The...