Preserving Tomorrow’s History Today

By Secretary of State Jason Kander

As your secretary of state, one of my primary goals has been to make state government more transparent and accessible to all Missourians, and no single division embodies this vision more than the Missouri State Archives.

The mission of preserving our state’s history began in 1963, after a fire at a state office building in Jefferson City motivated the Legislature to review how it stored information and records. The State Records Act was passed, and within a year the new Archives freed more than 12,000 square feet of space in the crowded Capitol. The new storage space saved the state approximately $500,000—more than $3.6 million in today’s dollars.

Today, our State Records Center houses more than 391,000 boxes of official records for more than 400 state agencies. The Imaging Section has scanned more than 206 million images and produced in excess of 4,000 rolls of microfilm. The Local Records program has conducted projects and consulted in all 114 counties and the city of St. Louis. The program has generated more than 71,000 reels of microfilm, meaning more than 122 million pages of our collective history have been preserved for future generations.

Throughout the past 50 years, we have preserved and cataloged an incredible amount of our state’s history. This is an amazing feat, and one that has been nationally recognized multiple times. Thanks to the hard work and dedication of staff and volunteers, an incredible amount of information has been placed in online databases such as Missouri Digital Heritage and the Missouri State Penitentiary database, which we launched this year.

Thanks to Missouri Digital Heritage, I was able to find my great-grandfather’s World War I enlistment records. Countless more genealogy enthusiasts have traced their family trees even further back. Researchers are now able to solve mysteries in an afternoon, when in years past, the same research might have taken weeks.

Projects such as Missouri Digital Heritage have helped bridge the gap between modern technology and historic records of past generations, but the State Archives is also leading the way in preserving today’s important electronic records that will become research material for future historians. Pioneering work is currently underway—courtesy of national grant funding—to ensure that electronic records are preserved just as safely as paper, parchment, velum and fabric.

I launched The Missouri Channel to record and preserve the most fleeting historic record of all: live audio.  Each day our legislators are in legislative session at the Capitol, we record all official audio from the floor. These recordings can be streamed live, or studied at a later time because my office now archives them and makes the recordings available online.

Whether you spend time exploring Missouri Digital Heritage, listen to lively floor debate on The Missouri Channel, or make a special trip to visit the Missouri State Archives in person, there have never been more historic records so readily available for Missourians, researchers and enthusiasts around the globe to study and enjoy. I strongly encourage you to take advantage of our State Archives’ immense resources and learn something new.

To learn more about the important work performed by the Missouri State Archives and Records Management, or to explore any of its online databases, please visit www.sos.mo.gov/records.

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