Records Preservation of Scituate Archives
The project is the final phase of a multi-year proposal for a total of $125,000 in archival work, which is ongoing and is being
completed in progressive phases by the Town Clerk’s office. Two previous phases totaling $80,000 have been approved by Town Meeting.
In the last phase of work, the monies requested will be invested in improved security to archived documents, improving the physical environment
in which these materials are stored.
The overall Archival Records Preservation project was for funding to improve the storage, restoration and preservation of municipal records for the
Town of Scituate.
The project meets the goals of the Historical Preservation under the Community Preservation Act by preserving valuable Town records statutorily
required to be stored and maintained by the Town of Scituate.
Scituate is most fortunate to hold a marvelous collection of municipal records, dating from the earliest days of its settlement. These include,
but are not limited to, land records (the first dated July 1633), vital records (the first birth, Joseph Stetson, son of Robert, June 1639), the
first marriage (Resolved White and Judith Vassall, November 5, 1640), tax records, financial records (1665), militia lists, voters lists,
Selectmen (1794) and Town Meeting minutes (1665), and lastly, the only extant copy of "General Laws and Liberties of New Plymouth 1658-1691."
(In 1905, this volume was loaned to the State Archives, but by a Town Meeting vote of 1909, it was requested and returned to Scituate.)
The process of making paper and ink in the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries results in very acidic conditions. As a consequence of acidity and time,
these documents are on the verge of self-destruction. To insure their continuance, they must be professionally deacidified, rebound, and
occassionally encased in mylar to protect them. This is an extremely costly endeavor, and thus far only a few have been preserved. Once these
documents are lost they are gone forever, there are no duplicate copies, each one is unique.
This project will benefit all townspeople as well as researchers in the United States and internationally. Requests for all manner of
information has risen exponentially over the years and now takes the time of four volunteers, working at the Archives on Wednesdays, and at home
at other times.
As a rule, genealogy is often the first use of historic records that comes to mind. While there is a call for that type of vital information,
increasingly in Scituate there are requests for land records and documentation that might clarify ownership, or the intent of town meeting, or
minutes that clarify a position taken by the town, or a board or committee. There may be interest in the history of a project proposed by a
resident/voter, or a builder, developer, a business person or professional. These records can only be found in municipal archives. Consequently,
this project addresses the needs of all citizens requiring access to such information. The "how," "when," "where" and "why" are often of great
significance. The answer is likely to be in the archives.
Photos (click on image to enlarge)