Valuation and commitment books containing lists of taxpayers and the amount of tax assessed are some of the town records that will move from the unheated attic of the Bristol town hall to a new home in a temperature and humidity-controlled archival vault being built at the Bristol History Center.
Some old voter records are also stored in the attic. The town is not required to keep them permanently, but Town Clerk Rachel Bizarro thinks these records may be of value to historians. She also noted a box of old ledgers from the selectmen’s office, along with a few antique copies of Boston newspapers. A few citizens have also dropped off old books and documents to be eventually taken to the vault.
Bizarro said it would be appropriate for all of the old records in the attic to be taken to the vault at the Old Bristol Historical Society’s historical and genealogical research center, if the historical society deems them worthy of being stored there, but records must first be cataloged so the town has a record of what is being relocated.
Ideally the tax records from the attic should be electronically scanned before leaving the town hall, Bizarro said, but she feels it is more important to get the records out of the current environment, which has wide variations in temperature and humidity and results in faster deterioration.
The town records not in the attic are stored in the fireproof vault on the main floor of the town office. Most of these records are regularly used by town employees and include the clerk’s books, vital records, meeting minutes, town reports, more recent tax commitment books, voter registration records, and all assessing information related to individual tax parcels, including building and plumbing permits.
Current voter records and more recent vital records are confidential, Bizarro said. She uses the clerk’s books and older vital records to answer genealogy and historical research requests. If records were first transcribed into digital form for this purpose, Bizarro said the older clerk’s books and older vital records could also be transferred to the vault at the history center.
Bristol voters will be asked to approve requests by 10 nonprofit community organizations on one combined warrant, among other warrants to be voted on by paper ballot, at the annual town meeting by referendum on March 15 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. at the Bristol Consolidated School gym. One of the nonprofits is the Old Bristol Historical Society, which is requesting $9,500 from the town toward the cost of completing the vault. The town previously contributed $9,500 for the project. The total cost of the vault is estimated at $41,400.
The old records from the town hall attic and the historical society’s collection will each take about one-sixth of the vault’s storage space, leaving nearly two-thirds for future storage needs.
The referendum is being held in place of the usual public voting at the annual town meeting, which has been canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
If the voters approve the request, the historical society will have enough money to complete the vault. However, the society needs additional funds to build accessible bathroom facilities and an accessible entrance so that the history center will comply with the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Some of the work can be done by experienced volunteers, according to Old Bristol Historical Society President Bob Ives.