With funding earmarked from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) as well as a discretionary grant from the Clarke County Development Corporation (CCDC), the Clarke County Supervisors decided to move forward with the completion of records digitization and archiving for both the Clarke County Recorder’s and the Clarke County Auditor’s offices.

digitization of official clakre county iowa records and documents

Much of Clarke County’s archival documentation has degraded over the years and will need special handling to digitize and index properly.

In the Clarke County Recorder’s office archives alone, there are hundreds of bound books containing more than a century of official real estate documents, marriage licenses, birth and death certificates, vehicle registrations, and liens. Fortunately, the most recent records, starting in the early 2000’s have been scanned and indexed as they’re developed. But when it comes to records prior to early 2000, only a handful of the 700–800-page books have been properly scanned and processed.

“We try to scan a few hundred documents a week,” said Clarke County Recorder, Selena Humphrey. “But at that pace we were looking at years to get the older documents scanned and indexed.”

To digitize and index the backlog of records for the Recorder’s office, the cost was quoted at $130,706. It was estimated to scan and digitize, including indexing and cross-referencing the historical documents for the County Auditor’s office – including books full of the county’s permanent records including the Board of Supervisors Minute Books, Real Estate Transfer Books, and Election Results – would cost $30,476. Combined, the total for the project was $161,182 to properly scan and archive the County’s historical documents.

“The documents we have on file date back to the mid 1800’s” said Clarke County Auditor, Janice White. “While some counties have already started the digitization process, our County Supervisors wanted to make sure it was financially feasible before embarking on a contract with any outside sources.”

While the consideration of bringing in volunteers or part-time workers to scan the documents was discussed, it was soon realized that would be just a small part of the total project. Indexing records from as early as the days of The Pony Express would require the ability to read and identify historical and legal content, much of which has degraded over the decades and would need special handling.

In a discussion with the County Supervisors, CCDC Executive Director, Bill Trickey suggested they bring the project to the board to garner support in the funding. At the September 13th CCDC meeting, the board voted unanimously to help fund 50% of the project with a $80,591 discretionary grant.

“This is a big step in making the business of government and, specifically, records documentation accessible to everyone.” said Rick Buesch from Banta Abstract, and CCDC board member.

After a lengthy review of multiple bids, the digitization contract was awarded to ArcaSearch out of St. Cloud Minnesota. ArcaSearch will bring a team on-site to capture scans of all the archived documents. After that, they will create enhanced PDF files that will be optically indexed with a character recognition program and then stored to a secure, cloud-based server where they can be digitally searched and accessed from computers around the globe. The scanning and digitization project is expected to kick off in January of 2024.

For more information on the records digitization project or if you have questions concerning Clarke County historical records and documents, please contact Janice White, Clarke County Auditor or Clarke County Recorder, Selena Humphrey at the Clarke County Courthouse, 100 S Main St, Osceola, IA 50213, phone: (641) 342-6096.

For more information about the Clarke County Development Corporation or any of the grant or donation opportunities available through the CCDC, Contact Bill Trickey, Executive Director, or Elizabeth Simpson, Program Manager, at 115 E Washington Street, P.O. Box 426, Osceola, IA 50213, phone: 641-342-2944, email: [email protected]