In the Rio Arriba County annex in Tierra Amarilla exists the environmentally-controlled County archives.
In the hallway outside the archives, books rest on carts acclimating to the temperature and humidity in the archives’ building.
Records Specialist Rosalie Vigil said the building where a lot of the old records were kept collapsed several years ago, leading to many of the old books becoming damaged by snow.
The books were then taken into the archives vault to acclimate further before they’re opened, digitized and preserved,. Most of the books are tax assessments.
“There were various records we couldn’t open to see because they were so destroyed,” Vigil said. “There was a fire, and then they were flooded, so you couldn’t really decipher what they were. The oldest documents are from 1873. We cleaned these books up with the assessors staff, and they look brand new.”
County Manager Lucia Sanchez said the archives keep the records of the history of the whole county.
“So hundreds of years of customs, culture, traditions, history, the county seat, the place of settlement, the wild wild west - this is it,” Sanchez said. “This facility was built to retain and protect these records. People come from all over to research and look at the documents.”
Sanchez said that by learning how to look at the data stored in the archives you can gain insight into how the County has been shaped over time.
“Look at mortgages and you see the class and land division and the lot of the federal land issues that affect the county. This gives a lot of context to why a lot of the policies are the way they are,” Sanchez said.
Vigil said the oldest documents held in the vault were from 1873 and were donated by researchers.
The archives don’t just hold historical records but also recent documents as well. Documents from the departments of the County are preserved in the archives until it is time for their deletion, Vigil said.
“After documents hit their retention in their office, we store them here until they reach their disposal date,” Vigil said. “What we do is quality control before it sets on the shelf, and we verify that all the documents that say they are in those boxes, are in those boxes. It’s like a digital vault, and everything we scan, we put into Laserfiche and departments have access to their documents.”
Laserfiche is a digital archive system the county first started using in 2014 where all departments under management would be moving to the digital archive system so they could call up records without needing to check the physical archives.
“We basically have seven or eight on board and we’re just trying to get the other (departments) on,” Vigil said. “First of all, you have to sort, and I don’t do their work, so there’s a lot of questions. I have to ask how often do you see it, when was the last time you saw it, and how important is this document then we refer it to the state statute.”
Vigil said ideally each department would have an employee trained to process documents into the archives.
“It’s a process,” she said. “It takes a while, and that’s the part people don’t really want to be committed to, but once you’re scanned out and committed to Laserfiche, it’s a piece of cake to find stuff.”