Preserving the Past, Informing the Future
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About the Office of the Public Records Administrator [OPRA]
Pursuant to CGS § 11-8 and § 11-8a, the Office of the Public Records Administrator [OPRA] is responsible for designing and implementing the Public Records Program for local government agencies and for state agencies within the executive department of government.
OPRA oversees the life cycle of public records; develops standards for record creation, including permanent papers and records stored in electronic format; publishes records retention schedules and provides records management guidelines. It publishes manuals, general letters, guidelines and standards to keep state and local government agencies informed about current records management issues and requirements. By statute, the Public Records Administrator and State Archivist must approve the disposition of all public records.
In addition, OPRA provides records management guidelines for local government offices; publishes regulations regarding the construction of town record storage vaults and the creation of permanent land maps filed with town clerks; and conducts the annual examination of land record indexes. OPRA also administers grants to municipalities to enhance or improve the preservation and management of local historic documents through the Historic Documents Preservation Program.
It also has administrative responsibility for the State Records Center.
Connecticut is a state that has historically been interested in the preservation of its public archives and the protection of its public records.
The General Assembly hired Sylvester Judd of North Hampton, Massachusetts in 1841 to organize and index Connecticut’s early colonial and State records up to the year 1820. Subsequently and to this day, the records are known as the “Connecticut Archives." The first State Librarian was appointed in 1854 by the State Library Committee. A year later, the “Connecticut Archives” were turned over to the custody of the State Librarian.
General Assembly directs all town clerks in 1871 to make copies of “manuscript volumes of town records, containing entries of deeds, town votes, wills, or judicial proceedings made prior to … 1700” on blank books furnished by the State Librarian. It also directs town clerks to transfer the completed books to the State Librarian on or before July 4, 1871.
In 1899, the General Assembly, concerned over the condition of Connecticut’s historical records, created the Commission on Public Records to survey town clerks, probate judges, and churches. The Commission issued two reports on the results of its surveys after two legislative continuances through 1902. In 1903, lawmakers created the post of Temporary Examiner of Public Records which they continued by statute in 1905 and 1907. The Examiner conducted condition surveys, visited local offices, and made three reports.
In 1909 the legislature abolished the post and passed legislation authorizing the State Librarian to accept any public records for “permanent preservation,” thus making the Library the official state archival agency. The newly built State Library and Supreme Court Building opened the next year. In 1911, the Assembly created a permanent post of Examiner of Public Records as an assistant to the State Librarian. The Examiner inspected storage conditions of public and church records, published standards for ink and paper used in creating public records, and accessioned archival records into the State Library.
After World War II, the office adopted modern records management practices. In 1955, the General Assembly created a Records Management Committee to work with agencies to develop records inventories and retention schedules, approve or reject records destruction requests, and approve or reject public records designated by agencies for microfilming.
In 1958, the State Library opened the State Records Center in Rocky Hill which began to acquire public records from State agencies.
The 1960s witnessed further changes. In 1965, the Examiner of Public Records issued the first Records Manual for Town Clerks. In 1968 under statute, the State Library formed a Department of Archives and Records Management and changed the title of its director from the Examiner of Public Records to Public Records Administrator. This position, as it exists today, exercises regulatory authority over public records in municipalities and state agencies.
In 2000, the General Assembly added the responsibility of administering a grant program to preserve local government records. By 2009, the program had awarded over $10,000,000 to the towns.
Incumbent: LeAnn Power, CRM