State's poor record-keeping making memories fade

The collective memory of Nevadans is at risk, state archivists warns.

This is not due to an epidemic of Alzheimer's, excessive exposure to radioactive waste, or even fires, pestilence and flood, but to a dismal performance in safeguarding important records, said Shayne del Cohen, who chaired the Strategic Planning Committee that conducted a recent survey of records.

From 1995 through 1997, the State Historic Records Advisory Board conducted a survey of the people and institutions that create, manage and preserve records for the state, local and tribal governments, museums, historical societies, corporations and private collections.

"Results are dismaying. Two-thirds of records keepers across the state found record storage facilities unsatisfactory; 80 percent report no sprinklers or other means of extinguishing fires; less than one in five have decided what to salvage in case of disaster and electronics records are a whole new ball game with no established rules," del Cohen said.

The full report may be viewed at the website:

"Records are the infrastructure of both day-to-day operations as well as the historical record," said del Cohen. "The general public must educate itself and encourage its records keepers to establish systems that promote efficient operations in the workplace, in the family, in churches and in social organizations. In this way, we can ensure the survival of vital historical records."

The Nevada's State Historical Records Advisory Board is a 10-member board, appointed by the governor to study and assess archives and public records programs in the state and report its findings to the governor and legislature. It was the first such advisory board in the nation to be recognized in state statute, being created in 1989. Chaired by the State Archivist, the members are appointed by the governor to represent various public and private archives and research institutions in the state. The administrator of the State Library and Archives is the ex-officio secretary to the board.

A copy of "Preserving Nevada's Documentary Heritage, 1997-2005" is available by calling 684-3310, e-mail:, or snailmail at State Archives and Records, 100 N. Stewart St., Carson City 89701-4285.


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