Preserving the past

Published 5:02 pm Sunday, December 29, 2013

JACKSON – “This is the county’s history that is falling apart.”

Those words, spoken by Northampton County Register of Deeds Pauline Deloatch, struck an accord among the county’s Board of Commissioners here recently as they approved a measure that will allow for work to begin on the preservation of historic records within her office.

The work will be performed by C.W. Warthan Company in conjunction with Records/Save/Etherington Conservation Services at the latter’s laboratory located in Brown’s Summit, NC.

“This is just a start (on the preservation project); we need to preserve these records. We have books that are falling apart,” Deloatch added. “We’ll start with eight books that are the worst of them all.

“We have other books that are in bad shape as well, so much to the point where we can’t allow the public to make copies,” she continued. “We are required to allow for copies to be made. In those cases I email a request to the State Archives (in Raleigh; who has copies of all Register of Deeds documents statewide) and they make a copy, email it to me and I in turn email it to the person making the request.”

Deloatch said the money she requested for the project would come from the automation fund that is set aside by the state for Register of Deeds offices across North Carolina to preserve old records. The cost to preserve Northampton County’s eight books (Deeds and Mortgages books dated 1791, 1809, 1821, 1834, 1839, 1841, 1842 and 1846) is $13,170. The work includes repairing the bindings, treating and inserting the now brittle and discolored acidic pages into transparent sleeves, treating the pages for mold, and recording the pages for digital viewing purposes, according to Greg Brooks, president of C.W. Warthan Company.

“I’ve been wanting to do this for a while, but I knew the county didn’t have the funds to do so,” Deloatch stated. “We need to start preserving these records or we stand a good chance of losing our history.”

She added that Northampton County’s share of the state automation fund currently stands at $99,693.

“Right now we’re just asking to use $13,170,” she said, “and that comes at no cost to the county.”

“These books, from what I can see, are in terrible shape; I’m unsure if we can get another year of use out of them or not,” observed Commission Chairman Robert Carter.

Brooks said his company has been dealing with preserving county records across North Carolina for over 60 years.

Fielding a question from Commissioner Joe Barrett about the length of time it would take to repair and digitalize these eight books, Brooks said he estimates roughly 12 weeks.

Brooks said these eight books are in need of a complete “conservation treatment.”

“The paper is very acidic, so one of the first things we do is treat and stabilize each and every page,” he said. “The tears on the pages will be mended and each page will be digitalized.”

“If there are requests for copies from the pages of these books while they are in Mr. Brooks’ possession, they can fill those requests in digital form,” Deloatch said.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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