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2016-04-07

Archives preserve Bandera County history

By Judith Pannebaker BCC Editor

When Dana Moeller was hired for a newly created position in the office of Bandera County Clerk Candy Wheeler, she anticipated the ensuing project would be extensive and time-intensive – and she was right on both counts.
As records management clerk, Moeller conserves, catalogs and archives county records, both historic and current. Documents, that, in fact, make up the very fabric of Bandera County.
Moeller presented a PowerPoint presentation to commissioners and visitors about efforts to preserve and archive the county’s records. County Judge Richard Evans requested the presentation to quell rumors that county officials had neglected to preserve important historical documents and had allowed them to continue to deteriorate. As Moeller’s presentation proved, nothing could have been farther from the truth.
In her presentation, Moeller noted that originally, the former records management facility had limited shelving. Because of the limitations, a portion of the historic records had to be stored in a pod unit and, before that, in a so-called “lean-to.” Storage in the lean-to resulted in mismanagement, disarray and insect and rodent infestations.
“The pod storage was an improvement and probably held the most historically significant documentation since the county’s sovereignty, including files and bound volumes of historical importance from different departments,” Moeller told the court. She added, “However, conditions were not conducive to proper record archival of the records. Humidity and drastic temperature changes became a problem.”
Moeller continued, “Both locations housed documents from all county departments, but with limited space and maneuverability, the collection could not sustain growth or further organizational improvement.” As an example, she cited that 60 boxes in the pod contained minutes from previous commissioners’ courts and those boxes accounted for 25 to 30 percent of the pod’s contents.
“To preserve the integrity of bound volumes of documents from the 1800s and early 1900s, when storing, the volumes need to be stacked flat rather than be allowed to stand on their ends,” Moeller explained, adding, “Due to space limitations, that could not be accomplished in the pod.”
To improve the situation, all archival records were relocated into a single climate-controlled environment, and previously weak storage boxes were replaced with dependable, sturdy ones of made from archival – acid-free – material.
“We could not create a new building, but we could increase the space by installing a mobile shelving unit using the existing shelves,” Moeller said. These types of shelving units are commonly utilized to store medical records in hospitals.
The durable mobile shelves increased storage capacity and, best of all to a penny-pinching court, came with a lifetime warranty.
And, as Moeller noted, “If a new archival facility is ever needed, the mobile shelving units can easily be transferred to the new location.”
The county’s current records management facility is located offsite at Mansfield Park on Highway 16 North. Essentially a building within a building, the facility provides a secure environment for the county’s historic records. Not only is it fireproof, but the building is temperature and humidity controlled.
And, as Moeller pointed out during a recent interview, “Every item is out of the pod and filed in the present facility.”
Funding to upgrade the records management facility came from a $10 archival fee charged for every document filed by the public. No tax dollars were spent on this project, Moeller said.
She began working for the county on a part-time basis just two years ago and has been records management clerk for about a year. “As a part-time employee, I did everything in the county clerk’s office and when this position was created, I just grabbed it.”
In fact, the job plays right into Moeller’s interest in history. Before earning a psychology degree from University of Texas at Austin, she had majored in archeology.
“It’s important that people know about our achievement with records management. We need to maintain and value these historic documents and their preservation,” Moeller said.
For her part, Wheeler described Moeller as the records management “guru” for Bandera County. “She has completely reorganized the county records management facility and because of her, we are proud to compare our facility to the best records facilities in Texas.”
Wheeler continued, “Dana has a passion for history and anything in written form. She has old-fashioned work ethics that are hard to find in any age group. The county is extremely blessed – and I’m proud – to have Dana working and preserving the counties historical records for future generations.”
Moeller foresees the present records management facility lasting Bandera County for the next 50 years – with space for people to research the historic documents. Currently, she’s assisting with full inventories of the records of various county departments “… so we’ll have an idea of what’s there and how to go forward. The county clerk’s office is dedicated to the preservation of the county’s historic records.”
Wheeler’s office telephone number is 830-796-4606.