The Case of the Well-Traveled Indexes

This is what archives karma looks like. When I worked as the Archivist at the Sharlot Hall Museum, I transferred as many public records as I could down to the State Archives. I had no idea that I would find myself working at the State Archives one year later, sorting through the odd assortment that I’d been delighted to unload on another repository. Why was I willing to transfer this stuff? Well, there are a couple of reasons.

  • Public records (such as records created by counties, cities, and state agencies) are required by statute to be transferred to the State Archives when they are no longer being used by the creating person or agency. Since the museum was not the appropriate repository, anyway, I figured the State Archives would be a good home.
  • Authenticity! (This relates back to why the museum should not have had these records in the first place). If a record is to stand up in a court of law, it needs to be certifiable, and it needs to have a documented chain of custody from one state agency to another. (Specifically, it needs to be transferred to the Archives).
  • Provenance: we like to make sure that an entire body of records stays together. It’s a basic principle in archives, and researchers really appreciate not having to drive all over the state just to find a single collection. Since the museum only had two indexes, it felt like a disservice not to have them with their corresponding books.

When I started sorting through what we had here at the State Archives, I realized that we had a full run of these indexes and corresponding books on microfilm, but not in hard copy. So where were the originals? It turns out that Yavapai County held onto these books, and when I contacted them, they were delighted to learn about the indexes. (They’ve had Volume 1 for years, but have always wondered what became of 2 and 3!)

Moral of the story: Nobody likes a hoarder. And as pretty and interesting as I find these old books, as much as I love the penmanship and the softness of the leather, I know they should be rejoined with the records around them. As archivists, our duty is to serve our records, and to serve our patrons. So the indexes will return to Yavapai County to be reunited with the rest of the Yavapai County mill sites and water rights books from the late 19th century. Goodbye, little buddies!