Harris County Historic Document Preservation
by: Laurie Johnson, October 25, 2005 12:10:00 am
Harris County has documents dating back to the 1830s when Texas was a republic and Houston was its capital. The county has more than 40,000 case files that are deteriorating from acidic ink, creases, insect damage and other problems. Harris County District Clerk Charles Bacarisse says the papers are important to preserve the historic record, but they also need to be restored for research and open records purposes.
Small case files with only a few sheets of paper cost as little as $10 to restore. But there are much larger files and minute books with hundreds of pages that can cost up to $2,500 to maintain. The papers are collected and documented here and sent to a company for professional preservation.
The county has covered the costs of preserving some of the records, but an estimated $800,000 is needed to continue the work. Bacarisse and former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker formed a fund-raising committee to fund the project. Baker has raised more than $450,000 to restore the papers including documents signed by his great-grandfather who was a district judge during the Civil War.
Some of the other documents include a paper that led to the formation of the Texas Medical Center, minutes from the first term of the first court operating in the Republic of Texas and a paper that alludes to a previously unknown lawsuit between Sam Houston and Stephen F. Austin. The preserved documents will be digitized and available on the internet and also open to the public in the county's archives.