Are the Genealogical Dark Ages Upon Us?

Prompted by an article in the Deseret News, quoting Curt Witcher, Betty Malesky wrote an interesting column this week. She speaks of a “genealogical dark ages.” Now how could that be? With all this technology-related data coming available you’d think we we in “genealogical heaven.” However, according to Witcher, and Malesky it’s not so…

I see their point. While we are getting access to digital documents by the million, we’re losing the records produced – or should I say “not produced,” today. When was the last time you got a personal letter from a friend, let alone one of your relatives? It’s all e-mail today it seems, and noone ever saves that for posterity… Too bad. We can communicate faster, and far easier than before, but it’s never saved… That’s just one thing that may point to a “genealogical dark ages.”

The following is a teaser from Betty’s article.

Are the genealogical ‘Dark Ages’ coming?
Sounds ominous doesn’t it?—“The genealogical dark ages.” The Dark Ages followed the decline of the Roman Empire as Europe experienced cultural and economic deterioration.

Intellectual curiosity was stifled for hundreds of years until the Renaissance in the 14th century.

A recent article in the Deseret Times (Salt Lake City) reports an address given at BYU’s Conference on Family History and Genealogy by Curt B. Witcher, manager of The Genealogy Center at the Allen County Public Library in Fort Wayne, Ind.

He believes we may be entering a new dark age in genealogy with vital records and memories of people alive today lost forever.

Most alarming is his statement that courthouses are engaging in “radical sampling”—keeping a few samples from large record collections and destroying the rest.

This week, Camden, N.J. announced plans to close all branch libraries.

The Arizona State Library is currently open weekdays only from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.

“Publish,” he [Withcer] says, “locally to family or even on a website such as werelate.org.” taking care not to post personal information of living individuals as you create records for descendants … History (is) in our hands. What are we going to do with it?” If we wait for someone else to take care of it, our history is endangered and may be lost. Good advice from a respected librarian who cares about history including our individual family histories.

Read the full article in the August 14, 2010 Green Valley News.

Pennsylvania States Archives is Running Out of Space

With budget shortfalls galore, many states are having problems just paying the bills, let alone expanding archives space. Pennsylvania is in just such a pickle…

PHILADELPHIA — The 18-story tower across from the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg is where Pennsylvania State Archives Towermillions of records from centuries of commonwealth history are kept to keep them safe for future generations — but it’s running out of room.

Officials say the archive, which receives several thousand new boxes of records each year, can take more for another year or maybe two, and the building must either be renovated and expanded or the material must go to a newer and more functional facility.

“We are almost at 99 percent capacity right now,” said David A. Haury, Pennsylvania’s state archivist, who said more than 200 million pages of paper were stored in the tower. “We don’t want to be in a position where we can no longer take in documents. We’re running out of options.”

Read the full AP article in the August 2, 2010 edition of The Mercury.

Advisory Panel Recommends Against the Library of Michigan “Break-Up.”

The following excerpt is from an August 6, 2010 Lansing State Journal editorial. Although the state is hurting economically, breaking up such a wonderful resource, as the Library of Michigan is, seems extreme. Their genealogy collection is one of the best in the country.

Library of Michigan

The idea of parceling out the library’s functions and holdings never seemed to gel. The “Michigan Center for Innovation and Reinvention,” which [Governor] Granholm touted for the library complex, was deemed “squishy” by this board little more than a year ago.

And now an advisory panel formed by Granholm has recommended against the library’s dismantling. It says the non-Michigan genealogy records and other materials previously deemed not part of the library’s core mission should stay where they are.

The effect of this recommendation is, no surprise, unclear. Granholm’s office says it will review the recommendation.

Doesn’t it make sense to halt a break-up whose benefits are not well understood?

Yes, Michigan is spending money to maintain records that, strictly speaking, it does not need to operate. “For non-Michigan genealogical records alone, the state spends about $368,000 a year,” the LSJ reported last month.

That’s a great deal of money for the average Michigan family. For Michigan government, like it or not, it’s peanuts. For some context, consider that the Auditor General’s Office just issued a report questioning $4.4 billion in spending by the Department of Community Health.

Read the full editorial.

Dallas Public Library in Budget Troubles

According to a blog posted at Dick Eastman’s site, the Dallas Public Library genealogy collection may be in trouble. Following is a teaser. Please read Dick’s full blog. This is important…

Dallas Public Library - History

The Dallas Public Library has one of the best genealogy departments of any public library in the United States. Sadly, that may soon end. The department is on the chopping block for the second straight year because of budget deficits facing the Dallas City Council.

The Dallas Genealogical Society warns, “We are heading for a disaster with the Dallas City Council refusing to even consider a tax hike to cover their $130 million projected budget shortfall. Since the Dallas Public Library system shares the same budget with essential services like Police and Fire, you know who will be deemed more ‘essential.’ To make matters worse the Library administration has decided to sacrifice the downtown research library for the branch libraries because the council representatives hear more from their voters about curtailing services in their particular area.”

Read the full blog.

State Historical Society of Missouri Cuts Hours

Due to a 25 percent withholding in its fiscal year 2010 state appropriation, the State Historical Society of Missouri has decreased its hours open to the public to Mondays through Thursdays, 8 a.m. to 4:45 p.m.

To continue operations and implement the withholding, the society’s 22 staff members have voluntarily taken a 20 percent pay reduction, and three staff positions have been eliminated. These positions included one unfilled position left temporarily vacant, one retirement and one layoff.

The society will seek private funds to continue its newspaper microfilming program and to print the Missouri Historical Review.

Read the full article in the December 30, 2009 edition of BuffaloReflex.com.

For more info., see the notice posted at the society website.

Wayne County (Pennsylvania) Historical Society Museum Closes Until April 15 Due to Budget Cuts

Wayne County Historical Society HONESDALE [PENNSYLVANIA] – A museum dedicated to preserving Wayne County’s history and Honesdale’s role as the birthplace of the American railroad will be shuttered over the winter due to a loss in critical state funding.

“The easiest way to make up for that was just to close,” said Ann O’Hara, a spokeswoman for the Wayne County Historical Society, which manages the downtown museum.

“It’s painful. We don’t like doing it,” she said.

The museum, which houses a replica of the Stourbridge Lion, the first locomotive to run on commercial rails in the United States, will be closed today. It is expected to reopen April 15.

Widespread state budget cuts this year affected non-profits throughout the state, with county historical societies taking big hits since their operations generally run on tight budgets supported through community fundraisers and memberships.

The Wayne County Historical Society lost its generally reliable $10,000 state grant, a significant portion of its $90,000 annual operating budget, Ms. O’Hara said.

The museum’s executive director, Sally Talaga, will be laid off until the museum reopens. A part-time employee will now volunteer her services; and one other part-time employee will have her hours scaled back.

Read the full article in the January 1, 2010 edition of The Times Tribune.