Often preservation projects are constrained by resources, but the center received a freezer from the county once the Cantol Wax building was cleared, and is using it to help clean some books. The first commissioners’ books and the land deed books are in the process of being digitized, Bieganski said.
“The preservation of those old books is important; it’s part of our history,” Chalfant said. “We now have a place where we can store these books and care for them.”
In the archive space, the county is working to preserve the story of the county’s founding, development and growth. According to Indiana Code, permanent records — including meeting minutes, payroll records and ordinances — must be kept forever, and can be stored in their original state or on microfilm.
Most of the books relate to property and court history of the county, but the archive also has a hodgepodge of other records: estate books that include inventories of properties with a judgment against them; prosecutor’s records that have bills from lawyers tucked within their pages; 1930s school records listing the majority of parental occupations in Indian Creek Township as “farmer” or “quarryman”; pages of the coroner’s records that detail an accident that killed a pre-teen pedestrian on Hillside Drive in the 1960s.
Fielder found interesting bits of his own family history, reading the record of his great-grandfather’s death.
“It’s little gems like that that make you want to dig into this stuff,” he said.
Weiler said that he can’t open the books when he’s trying to work; it’s too easy to get absorbed in looking at the old-fashioned calligraphy or reading the old stories.
There are a few books missing here and there, which Fielder hopes means they’ve been microfilmed at some point.