Library DrawingThe CONNector

NOVEMBER 2001 Volume 3 Number 4

Connecticut Public Records Administration Past and Present

Eunice G. DiBella, Public Records Administrator

Photo of Kendall Wiggin, State Librarian; Tanya Lane, Town Clerk Westbrook, Eunice G. DiBella, Public Records Administrator, Sen. Eileen M. Dailey, (D-33d District); Rep. Brian O'Connor, (D-35th District)
Kendall Wiggin, State Librarian; Tanya Lane, Town Clerk Westbrook, Eunice G. DiBella, Public Records Administrator, Sen. Eileen M. Dailey, (D-33d District); Rep. Brian O'Connor, (D-35th District)

On August 7, 2001 the Public Records Administrator and the State Librarian hosted a reception in Memorial Hall of the Connecticut State Library celebrating the first awards from the Historic Document Preservation Account established by Public Act 00-146. The State Library received one hundred five applications in the first grant cycle, and awarded $322,384 back to the towns for paper preservation, preservation planning and disaster recovery

The passage of this legislation has been a defining moment for the public records program. The revenues generated by this fund enable CSL to make a real difference in preserving local government records by providing municipalities with much needed funds to support these activities.

The Connecticut State Library, Office of the Public Records Administrator has been the Public Records Office for the State of Connecticut for slightly over 100 years. In 1899 the Connecticut General Assembly created a Temporary Commission on Public Records to survey town clerks, probate judges and churches on the condition of historical records. In 1911 State Librarian George Godard appointed Lucius B. Barbour as Examiner of Public Records.

The primary goal of the first two examiners of public records was to preserve municipal records. Lucius Barbour was an avid genealogist. The Barbour Collection of Vital Records, which he funded, is a monumental piece of work that has contributed to research in family and local history. Mr. Harold Burt succeeded Mr. Barbour, and devoted much of his time surveying the towns and rescuing records in the localities. He did this by bringing town records the to the State Library for safekeeping. It is in large part due to his efforts that the State Library acquired the vast collection of early local records in its collections.

Mr. Rockwell Harmon Potter became Examiner of Public Record in the 1950's. Mr. Potter greatly expanded the scope and direction of the Public Records program. After World War 2, records management began to emerge as a profession. The emphasis shifted to managing documents during the entire "life cycle" of the record.

This concept combined preservation and administration of archival collections with the management of active records and the disposition of outdated files. Legislation that was introduced by Mr. Potter in the 1960's and was passed by the legislature created the position of the Public Records Administrator. The Administrator directed the newly created Department of Archives and Public Records in the State Library. The legislation gave the State Records program legal status and introduced records management concepts in state statutes.

In 1982 Dominic Persempere succeeded Rockwell Potter. Sadly, Mr. Persempere passed away in late July of this year. Mr. Persempere worked tirelessly with the municipalities to improve the condition of their records and was responsible for achieving an excellent relationship between the State Library and the Connecticut town clerks.

In 1989 I assumed the post of Public Records Administrator. Each individual who has served in this position has brought their unique perspective on what this job should be, but we have all shared the goal of historic preservation. In the coming years, this office will work with the towns to increase the scope of funding priorities and provide municipalities with assistance and training to enhance the preservation of the historic documents of the State of Connecticut for its citizens.

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