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County Wins Innovation Award for Digital Historical Archives Project

Santa Barbara County has learned it is the recipient of a 2016 Innovation Award from the California County Information Services Directors Association (CCISDA) for its Board of Supervisors Digital Historical Archives project.

In 2014, the county clerk of the board began a project to digitize the legislative record of the Santa Barbara County Board of Supervisors from 1850 to present.

Working with the UCSB Special Collections Library, the office of 3rd District Supervisor Doreen Farr and Santa Barbara Arts Commission, the historical records were digitized via scanning by a vendor specializing in government archives. These digital files were delivered to the county while the original documents were placed in secured storage.

“Our objective for the Board of Supervisors Digital Historical Archives website was to enable the public to access the entire legislative record of the board online, including minutes and ordinances, from the inception of the county through today,” said Farr.

“We also wanted to ensure that the original historical documents were preserved and securely stored. The oldest and most fragile of the records, which are handwritten minute books dating from 1850 to 1907, will be stored at the new UCSB Library,” he said.

With files in hand, the county’s information technology team began building an interactive website for the public to view, search and download these historical records.

Consideration was given to having a format that could easily be viewed on computers and mobile devices, as well as allow for a full-text search to the extent feasible, and for easy downloading and social sharing of content.

The first phase of the website was launched in beta in 2015, with a major update published in May 2016. Additional content continues to be added once digitized.

It is believed that when the final documents are published, Santa Barbara will be the only county in the state to publish online its entire historical minutes archive dating from 1850.

The archive is organized by era and document type: 1850-1907: Handwritten era; 1907-1977: Typewritten era ;1977-2000: Microfilm/microfiche era*; 2000-present: Digital era.

Michael Allen, chief deputy clerk of the board, said, “The records offer a fascinating look into the development of our county through the legislative process, from the establishment of the county on Feb. 18, 1850, through seminal moments in our history such as the reconstruction of the County Courthouse after the 1925 earthquake, the construction of the Santa Barbara County Bowl, a WPA Project completed in 1936 as the nation recovered from the Great Depression, and the completion of the Cachuma Project in 1956.”

Allen said the response to the online archive has been outstanding and that over the past six months the website has had nearly 2,000 visitors and 487,000 page views, which is equivalent to every page in all 190 historical books being viewed four times each.

Allen said that “340 gigabytes of content has been viewed and downloaded, which is the equivalent of all 190 historical books downloaded 11 times each.”

To view the county’s historical archive, go to www.countyofsb.org/ceo/minutes.

— Gina DePinto for Santa Barbara County.


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