Archivist Paige Monlux kicked off the presentation by telling commissioners about the County Archives Office’s work to digitally capture its collection. Monlux said the County’s digital preservation system is in its third year and now has about 300,000 electronic archival records — from 1930s Criminal Registers to County budgets adopted in the early 2000s — in more than 300 record formats.
Once digitized records are posted to the County’s online repository, the public can access that information without having to visit the Yeon Building in East County. “Any member of the public anywhere in the world will be able to see these records wherever they have an Internet connection,” said Monlux of the County’s Digital Archives site.
Monlux also noted the office’s burgeoning social media presence. And she informed commissioners about the office’s national standing among its peers: County Archivist Terry Baxter is serving as the elected president of the Society of American Archivists, one of the oldest and largest professional organizations of archivists in North America.
“He is a tireless advocate of social equity in archives and is dedicated to constantly illuminating and improving access to the historical record,” said Monlux of Baxter. “His knowledge of Multnomah County Archives is incomparable. I am always learning from him.”
Baxter read the 2022 Archives Month proclamation aloud during the Board meeting.
“Archival institutions have a responsibility to provide the public with access to their records,” the proclamation says, “and it is a goal of these institutions to increase public awareness of the vital role they play in safeguarding knowledge of our intellectual, cultural, social, and governmental heritage.”
Before voting unanimously to approve the proclamation, commissioners congratulated Baxter on his role within the Society of American Archivists and thanked the County archivists for their stewardship of historically meaningful information.
Commissioner Sharon Meieran praised the Archives team for their achievements in modernization. The office grew the number of visits to the public digital archives website by 54 percent in the last fiscal year. It also obtained a specialized book scanner to digitize valuable old volumes. “Thinking of archives in my head, they should involve dust and boxes and things like that,” she said.
“Every day there is another reason to acknowledge and restate how important it is to understand our past,” Commissioner Susheela Jayapal said. “That is the foundation for creating a different future.”
Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson , challenged everyone watching or attending the meeting to consider how the County and the community might go about documenting the events of the last three years and the value that information might hold to future generations.
“How do you archive a pandemic? What are people going to be looking back at and searching for to really understand what it was like to be alive... when we were going through such an unprecedented event?” asked Vega Pederson. “The power of understanding that is going to be in the materials in the pieces of history — and the role you have as archivists in protecting that — is really important.”