Preserving Valpo records a labor of love for clerk

2010-07-11T00:00:00Z 2010-07-11T01:30:02Z Preserving Valpo records a labor of love for clerkBy Phil Wieland, (219) 548-4352

VALPARAISO | The names have faded into history, and now the ink in the books where the city's early records are kept also is fading -- and the pages are becoming brown and brittle.

Clerk-Treasurer Sharon Swihart last week asked the City Council to approve $20,000 from the city's riverboat gaming funds to preserve seven books holding the minutes of Council meetings dating back to 1857, when Valparaiso was just a town. The request will receieve final action at Monday's meeting.

Swihart's request is to hire Brown's River Marotti Company, of Vermont, to take each book apart, treat each page to halt deterioration caused by acid in the paper, clean them, remove any tape of other materials, repair weak or torn pages and then rebind them in hand sewn leather covers. Books in which the pages are very fragile, such as the 1857 to 1865 town records, are treated and then encapsulated in a polyester film.

The seven books take the written record of Valparaiso minutes to 1905, after which typewritten records were kept. She is not asking that those later records be preserved, yet.

"When I came into office, there were no duplicates of any of these records," she said.

She had everything put on microfilm about 15 years ago, and a copy  is stored at the Valparaiso Public Library. Two years ago, she had them put on compact discs. She was storing a copy of the record books at the wastewater treatment plant, but all of them are kept in a safe at City Hall now.

A history buff, Swihart said she will bring out one of the old books to look up something and soon become engrossed in reading the work of her predecessors. She said she found a resolution passed in honor of a previous clerk-treasurer who died in office, and she marveled at the extravagant praise heaped upon her.

"I told the people here if that happens to me they can just use that resolution -- and add that I loved animals," Swihart said.

The preservation process takes about four months, and the company claims the materials should not need further attention for two to three centuries. Swihart, who has been in office almost three decades, said she doesn't figure on being around for the next round of preservation.

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