History of the Digital Program

The Utah State Archives has provided scanned images of sample records and documents online since at least 1999. With the widespread increase of all types of information online, it was clear that a more comprehensive program was needed. Former Governor Michael Leavitt provided one impetus upon leaving office in 2003, with his strong ideas of making large portions of the records from his administration available online for public viewing. Some funding was soon provided to enable almost immediate processing of some Leavitt records. Newly appointed division director Patricia Smith-Mansfield brought extensive experience with the CONTENTdm™ digital content management system from work at the Utah State Historical Society. Test scans of press releases were posted with the University of Utah's Marriott Library Digital Collections (which also hosted the digital collections of the Historical Society) in 2004. During 2005, processing and some scanning continued as personnel time was made available. Equipment was tested (and sometimes rejected), and over 800 video tapes were recorded on DVDs.

In the 2005 General Session of the Utah State Legislature, a one-time appropriation (HB 301) was approved for Preservation Services intended primarily for digitization. That funding was used for purchasing a microfilm roll scanner, a license for CONTENTdm™, and server storage space. In other words, the tools to let us increase the volume of digitization and making the digital images available online more quickly. As things do, it took some time to finish planning such large purchases. The CONTENTdm™ system was made available in June 2006 and testing began immediately. We had planned all along to use the "compound object" feature to properly tie different levels of records together, such as documents inside of folders, or to make sure that Page 2 of a letter came right after Page 1. However, much correspondence with technical support made it clear that we were using this feature to its fullest extent and some trial and error was to be expected.

By the end of 2006, approximately 40,000 images from Governor Leavitt's office and one or two other record series were online.

In 2007, additional records were targeted as part of a planned effort to make often-used paper and microfilm records available online. These included the large volume record series Board of Pardons' Prisoner pardon application case files and the House of Representatives Working bill files. Both were scanned from microfilm and then organized by staff into sensible folder for browsing and searching. The House bills began to come online in early 2008 and represented a newer process where the paper was prepped, microfilmed, inspected and then immediately scanned. This enabled some of the earlier sessions to be online before the whole series was even microfilmed.


By far, however, the most popular digital versions of records now online are Death Certificates from 1904 to 1956. With over 280,000 images, such a project was made possible by a partnership with the Genealogical Society of Utah. The GSU scanned the certificates from microfilm and then linked the images to existing name indexes. The images went online in December 2006 and soon became very, very popular (as in 50,000 hits a day in the beginning). A certain percentage of the images could not be automatically linked to name, and users quickly seemed to find these! The Archives staff has since worked to resolve unlinked images by request, which can be made by email from the name record itself.

The GSU and FamilySearch has continued to work closely with the Archives by taking digital images of more records which will hopefully be made available online soon. Animal brand books from 1849 to 1930 and the Sanpete County Death Register from 1898 to 1905 are now online, linking from an existing name index.

Page Last Updated November 18, 2008.