The oldest volumes are full of handwritten script done with a quill pen.
WARREN -- Nearly 5,000 annual visitors to Trumbull County's archives over many years have unintentionally taken a toll on the historic documents kept there for public use.
"We probably have a couple million pieces in here," said Emily Varner, the county's archivist, walking among the rows of bound books dating back to 1795. She said 95 percent of the records kept in climate-controlled storage in the Stone Building's dry basement are permanent or historical.
"This is all part of our past. This is our history," she said.
To preserve these records, Recorder Diana Marchese and Varner are in the process of seeking bids for a "large format color stationary book scanner" that can scan the large pages and then keep the images for computer and microfilm use.
The scanner could cost $40,000, paid for from the recorder's equipment fund. Its use would eventually cut down on the amount of handling the books require as people leaf through them for research and other projects.
Over time entire volumes could be saved to files that the public can access. As the books are scanned they also will be repaired, when possible.
"My job is preservation of the records. I look to do anything I can to keep them in good shape, and to make sure they're always available," Marchese said.
"It's going to save wear and tear on the books -- as well as wear and tear on me," added Varner, the county's archivist for more than a decade, and a 23-year employee who also is records manager, and supervisor of microfilm and printing. Right now she works alone because of county layoffs.
The bound volumes on average have 600 to 900 pages, and weigh five to 25 pounds.
The volumes include court dockets, deeds, probate records, marriages, births, deaths, estates, taxes, auditor's transfer records, infirmary records, military records, grave registrations, naturalization records, recorder's papers and more.
"You name it, I've got it," Varner said.
The oldest volumes are full of handwritten script done with a quill pen. The ink is fading and the pages are coming out of their leather and canvas bindings. Some of these books survived the 1895 courthouse fire. There are duplicate copies kept on microfilm, and some printed duplicates.
Anyone can come in and look them over -- with care.
Getting worn out
"The more we handle them, the dirtier they get," Varner explained. The pages turn yellow and curl. Picking them up and opening them stresses the book spines.
She wears white gloves when handling the most delicate documents, such as the Western Reserve Draft Book and the Court of Quarter Sessions.
The draft book is the oldest book in the county. Believed to be an original copy, it lists all of the proprietors and the amounts they paid to form the Western Reserve Land Co. in 1795, Varner said. The Reserve was Ashtabula, Trumbull, Geauga, Cuyahoga, Portage, Mahoning, Medina and Lorain counties.
The quarter sessions book from 1803 has records of marriages, wills and estates, judicial appointments and information on when some of the townships were formed in addition to the creation of a Trumbull County seal.
Some of the names on its pages are John Young, Turhand Kirtland, Camden Cleveland, James Kingsbury and Eliphalet Austin, among others.
"These are my children. You know how you worry about your children? I worry about these things," Varner said of the county's documents.
Backup copies of county data (microfilm, magnetic tapes) are kept at Iron Mountain, formerly a depleted iron ore mine in upstate New York. It was converted to the United States' first secure underground records storage center designed to protect corporate vital records in the event of a nuclear holocaust.
The Iron Mountain company purchased the facility in 1975 and has since earned a spot on the Fortune 1000 list. It has 200,000 customer accounts from the U.S., Canada, Europe and Latin America.