Petaluma’s Founding Documents…Decomposing in the Basement

In this busy era we tend not to reflect upon our history and the documents from our past. In many instances government documents–records from the “pre-digital days”– sit decaying in boxes stored in backrooms, basements, or attics. (1)

And so it is with the City of Petaluma’s Archives in the basement of City Hall.  The preservation of some of these original documents and records must be given high priority.

Two original documents should be attended to now

Articles of Incorporation from 1858, signed by the California Secretary of State, Ferris Forman…*

DSCF5843a1Web

  City Charter of 1876, signed by Secretary of State, Thomas Beck…*

If action is not taken, the above photos may be your first–if not the only–opportunity to view what I call the Founding Documents of our fair city.

These documents need to be properly treated and preserved in safe storage so that they do not continue to deteriorate. A documents archivist suggested…

“Digital replicas can–or should–be made to display in the Council Chambers or the Petaluma Museum…perhaps even in time for Petaluma’s 160th anniversary in 2018.”

  • If we take action now, we can ensure that they will still be here for the celebration.
  • If we don’t do anything………..Well, time is not on our side.

RECOMMENDATIONS

  • The City of Petaluma should immediately consult with a documents expert as to the best means to preserve the City’s founding documents and make them available to all of us in the future. (2)
  • The consultant should also be asked to advise as to the preservation of the rest of the important historical files in the City Archives.
  • If for some reason the City is not able to proceed, then it should immediately look to other agencies or institutions that are capable of preserving this history.

I have conducted some preliminary research in this area with the assistance of a few “sources” and have secured recommendations as to possible area candidates for this task.

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*Photos from a January 2011 visit to City Hall  gathering information for Petaluma’s Charter–A Little Civics Lesson

(1) Care, Handling, and Storage of Works on Paper

(2) On the Preservation of Books and Documents in Original Form

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