They should dust more often: Maine office cleaning turns up 150-year-old documents

Posted Jan. 28, 2011, at 3:10 a.m.

AUBURN, Maine – When city staffers kicked off their midwinter tidying-up of Auburn Hall on Wednesday morning, they uncovered troves of historic documents.

Hidden among old City Council minutes, voter lists and copies of old ordinances, were books full of court and naturalization records and insanity hearing minutes dating back to 1861.

The city will keep the records that pertain strictly to municipal life. They have to, City Clerk Roberta Fogg said.

“Anything prior to 1900 has to be kept forever,” Fogg said. “That’s the state disposition rule and it’s there to preserve the history. These are all voter registrations from the 1800s, marriage licenses, birth records.”

But Fogg was packing up the court records and taking them to the state archivist in Augusta on Thursday.

“We just don’t have the money, the time or the appropriate space to store these records — and they are valuable,” Fogg said. “We don’t want to lose that heritage. The state has the archivist; they can clean these records, restore them, catalog them and make them available to the public.”

Auburn Hall offices were closed all day Wednesday to devote time and effort to getting organized and making room for the Police Department to move in.

“It hasn’t been done, ever, and it needs it,” City Manager Glenn Aho said. “An organized office is a more efficient office. So, after this, everything should work better and more smoothly.”

Auburn’s police administrators, detectives and support staff are scheduled to begin moving into vacant space on the third floor in February. Patrol officers will follow later this spring, moving into the basement.

The city’s Information and Communication Technology staff is moving out of the basement to the main floor and will share space with the City Clerk’s Office.

A significant part of the job Wednesday was cleaning up the basement archives and combining files kept in three storage areas into two areas, Fogg said. Archives include City Council meeting minutes dating back hundreds of years, printed copies of city charters and old zoning books. Most will remain in the city’s basement archive, but they will be cataloged and indexed so they’ll be easier to find.

“We have the original Danville town records, the voting records and everything else,” Fogg said. “Where else would you be able to find those, if you wanted a list of registered voters from the 1800s?”

Moving the court records to Augusta will save several shelves-worth of space, she said.

“And that’s going to save us having to pay for off-site storage to keep these things,” Aho said.

Copyright (c) 2011, Sun Journal, Lewiston, Maine

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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