170 years worth of historical records in need of extensive preservation

170 years worth of historical records in need of extensive preservation

SMITH COUNTY, Texas (KLTV) - 127 years of Smith County history lines the shelves at the Cotton Belt building in Tyler.

Tuesday, Smith County Commissioners heard a plan to preserve those records that date back more than 170 years.

As you walk through the 1st floor of the Cotton Belt building, nostalgia hits. It’s the smell you experience when opening up an old library book.

Leather bound books filled with more than 170 years of history, dating back to 1846.

“State and federal tax liens, deeds of trust, abstract of judgment, the soldier and sailor deed records,” Smith County Clerk Karen Phillips says.

All deemed permanent records because of their historic value; so much value that the Smith County Clerk has proposed a preservation project to save these wilting pages before it’s too late.

“We have an obligation to protect them and to preserve them,” Phillips says.

County Clerk Karen Phillips, along with KoFile, a record preservation company, are proposing a project that would restore more than 2,000 volumes of material for a cost of $6,000,000.

“It is a phenomenal amount of work, it’s a phenomenal amount of data and information, it’s roughly 75,000 pounds of paper, which is a lot and that’s the history of your county. There is not a person in this court that doesn’t have something to do with those records. Your house, your relatives’ houses, it’s the history of the county,” KoFile employee Chris Marotti says.

County Clerk Phillips pointed out that the county does have a budget specifically for record management and preservation, that holds about $6.5 million.

“I think that the commissioners will go ahead and sign the contract, they know that the money is there, legislation made it my responsibility to preserve and protect the documents,” Phillips says.

Smith County Commissioners are expected to vote on the proposal at their next meeting on July 23.

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