Making Waves: Emery County Archives Digitizes the Flow of History

Lauren Katz Utah State Historical Records Advisory Board

Each year, the Utah State Historical Records Advisory Board (USHRAB) awards grants to organizations throughout the state to assist with the preservation and public access of our state’s history. These grants are made possible by funding from the National Historical Records and Publications Commission at the National Archives. As we get ready for the USHRAB’s 2024 funding season, we’re going to spend the next couple weeks getting to know our current grantees projects and the work the Board does to make Utah history more accessible.

The Emery County Archives is the San Rafael area’s repository of special collections and archives, including a rare books library and extensive photo collection. Started in 2001, it’s an important repository for donations of family, organization, and agency documents and artifacts that document the history, life, and culture of the people of the Castle Valley Region.

What is one fun fact about your organization that the general public might not know?

The Emery County Archives was the first county archives created, as a pilot program, in a joint effort between Utah State Archives and the Utah State Historical Society, to establish regional archives. The objective was, “Instead of having documents and artifacts sent to Salt Lake, as they previously had been, keep the records and history of an area close at hand for those who would be most interested in its study and preservation.” 

What is your project? What kinds of documents are you working with? 

The project is to digitize the historic water records of the Ferron Creek canal companies. This includes the ledgers, beginning in 1893 -1957, and the Articles of Incorporation for early canal companies that were created.

Page from the Ferron Canal and Reservoir Company, stock members and stock shares, 1914-1923

Projects like this take a lot of time, labor, and care to complete. Can you tell us a little about the folks who will be working on this project? What are their roles, responsibilities, and motivations?

The wonderful staff at the Willard J. Marriott Library handled the digitization and ingestion of these records. The Emery County Archives staff started the process by cleaning, finishing light repairs, and getting the documents ready for digitization.

Why did you/your organization choose these documents as your project? What makes these items special or significant?

The canal companies in Emery County have requested that these historically significant records be digitized, for their use and to preserve the information held within these pages. The records are extremely fragile and are in need of care and conversion to a more modern form of data.

Once this project is complete, what will your organization do with these records? Do you have any exhibits (in-person or digital), unveiling, etc. that you would like to do?

Once this project is completed, the Emery County Archives will host an in-person event, partnering with the Emery County History Society, that would unveil the project and explore the many stories and history behind this collection.

What do you hope that the general public will do with these records once they are accessible? What kinds of projects or activities do you with people will use these records for?

We hope the public will use the free access to the digital images to research and learn what these amazingly industrious people did in order to have water. 

The USHRAB’s grant program is funded by a State Board Programming Grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission at the National Archives. The USHRAB assists public and private non-profits, as well as non-Federal government entities throughout the State of Utah in the preservation and use of historical records.