Can Maryland Save Baltimore’s "Dying" Public Records?

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Things had gotten pretty bleak for Baltimore’s historic archives. They were kept in a leaky-roofed building filled with mold, raccoons, rats, and snakes. Yeah, snakes. Not only that, public access to these files was minimal as only a small number were available online. But the state of Maryland intervened and took control of the city’s public records in June 2010.

And not a moment too soon! According to the current Baltimore City Archives website, “on opening one archival box of the early papers of the mayors of Baltimore, the fumes from the fungal/mold decay were so powerful as to cause an excessive bout of sneezing and coughing.”

Since that time Baltimore’s court documents, ordinances, real estate deeds, zoning maps, etc. have moved into a cushy, climate-controlled building in East Baltimore. Perhaps more importantly, they are now available for use by researchers. The Archives’ website welcomes individuals to make appointments to view the documents and also encourages interested parties to help fight for the preservation of Baltimore’s public history. It doesn’t mince words regarding the direness of the situation, proclaiming, “The public records of the City are dying.”

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