Digitizing handwritten history: City clerk wants to speed up archive preservation plan

City’s digitization plan would take 60 years at current funding levels

SAN ANTONIO – San Antonio’s city clerk wants to accelerate an ongoing plan to digitize and preserve the city’s archive, which she says could otherwise take decades.

In a recent presentation to the city council, City Clerk Debbie Racca-Sittre asked council members to consider a big funding boost so the city could finish digitizing more than 250 years worth of birth and death certificates, maps, meeting minutes, city ordinances, and various other city documents within five years, instead of decades.

The city has been working on digitizing its collection through an outside vendor for the past six years, Racca Sittre told KSAT on a tour of the Municipal Archive and Records Center Friday. But at the current funding of $100,000 a year, she says the entire project would take another 60 years.

By raising that to $1.3 million a year, Racca-Sittre said the city could have its archives in digital form and better preserved in five years.

“In 60 years, I don’t know how this stuff would even look,” she said. “It might not even be — it might have disintegrated. So it’s really important to digitize and to preserve.”

Racca-Sittre said a community survey had shown that a majority of people wanted digital archives.

The city already has a limited digital collection of records online, though Racca-Sittre says that system also has drawbacks. Making it more user-friendly is a separate initiative in a strategic plan for her office, she said.

Council members largely expressed support for the digitization plan during a Feb. 21 meeting, but the funding they assign through the budget process in August and September will determine how much of a priority it is.

About the Authors

Garrett Brnger is a reporter with KSAT 12.

Before starting at KSAT in August 2011, Ken was a news photographer at KENS. Before that he was a news photographer at KVDA TV in San Antonio. Ken graduated from San Antonio College with an associate's degree in Radio, TV and Film. Ken has won a Sun Coast Emmy and four Lone Star Emmys. Ken has been in the TV industry since 1994.

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