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When Circuit Court Records Preservation Program (CCRP) archivists from the Library of Virginia travel to circuit court clerks’ offices to examine items as potential candidates for CCRP conservation grants, what exactly are they doing?

The CCRP assists clerks with a number of conservation- and preservation-related matters. Jointly sponsored by the Library of Virginia and the Virginia Court Clerks Association, the CCRP is funded by a $3.50 recordation fee for land-related court entries. The money generated by that fee goes into a designated fund that is used for a variety of conservation/preservation projects, including the processing of circuit court records stored at the Library of Virginia; the digitization of chancery court records which are made available online via the Chancery Records Index; and CCRP grants to circuit court clerks’ offices across the Commonwealth of Virginia. Grant categories include funding for archival supplies, essential equipment and storage, fire suppression/security systems, and reformatting and indexing court records for each locality’s records management system. However, the most popular of the bunch is the CCRP item conservation grant.

When a clerk wishes to apply for an item conservation grant, the records needing conservation must be selected–that is where the CCRP archivist from the Library of Virginia comes in. These archivists travel to courthouses across the state to examine items as potential candidates for conservation grants. Once the items have been identified, either by the clerk’s office, the archivist, or both, the CCRP archivist writes up a condition report for each item while in the field. These condition reports contain information regarding the type of item (loose records, bound or post-bound volumes, plats, etc.), the date or date range for the items, the number of pages, and information regarding its physical condition (such as torn, chipped, and detached paper/pages, loose and/or detached signatures, brittle or water-damaged paper, and the use and amount of tape, glues, and other adhesives), to name just a few. Frequently, former conservation methods, such as tape-stripping of volumes, cellulose acetate lamination, and modern lamination need to be described in such a way as to predict the feasibility of undoing them safely and without causing further damage to the items.

Each condition report is transformed later into a Statement of Work (or SOW) outlining the conservation steps desired by the clerk’s office and the CCRP archivist. When applying for an item conservation grant, the clerk must contact a conservation vendor who will come to their office to examine the items and, in implementing the SOW, will provide the clerk with a quote for the cost of the conservation work to be provided (called a proposal of work). The clerk then submits the proposal and the grant application to the CCRP grant review committee (consisting of three circuit court clerks, the State Archivist, and one LVA staff member), which decides on approving or rejecting the grant applications. Once the grants are approved, each clerk’s office makes arrangements with the conservation vendor representatives to have the items transported to the conservation lab for treatment.

-Tracy Harter & Eddie Woodward, Senior Local Records Consulting Archivists

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