As part of Preservation Week, we wanted to share information on how you can preserve one of the more difficult forms of records both for institutions like the Utah State Archives and in our personal lives: digital and electronic.
Why Digital is Special
Paper is one of the more stable forms on which people have recorded information throughout history, using it to “…make our laws, conduct our business, correspond with our loved ones, decorate our walls, and establish our identities.” 1 And then came the Digital Revolution. Advances in electronics, devices, and communication have radically changed how we save and record information. While the new abilities are amazing and useful, they also introduce new problems for the long-term.
Digital formats (word processing documents, spreadsheets, web pages, texts) and media (hard drives, thumb drives, CDs, the “cloud”) are surprisingly fragile in their own ways. Documents become corrupt or get left behind in software upgrades, hard drives have a terrible habit of failing without warning, and anything portable can be easily lost. Also, with the extension in capacity comes that many more items to manage and preserve.
Selection and Organization
Do we just save everything just in case? Unfortunately this is a poor method of having anything valuable survive into the future. There are costs associated with storing more than you need, from the payment to a cloud service based on size to the increased failure of some of the largest hard drives. 2 These costs may drive short-term decisions in the wrong direction with terrible results. It will take time, but out of the many files created in a digital life, only some should be selected for caretaking. These might include:
important documents and vital records
audio and video recordings
Any organization system will work as long as you use it. Key points include using enough details for someone else to understand (who is “Aunt May”?) and using filenames to sort for you. For example, use the most important detail at the beginning, if it’s the date lead a filename with YYYYMMDD to stay in chronological order.
Clutter can thrive just as well on your computer as in the hall closet. Schedule a regular time to go through files, whether when you add them–as in downloading photographs from your phone, or a time of year like tax season. 3 Even if your “backlog” is large, you can start good habits now to keep it from growing in the meantime. Unlike that back of the closet, forgetting about digital files means they may disappear long before you get around to it again, so aim for yearly check-ups at the very least.
There is no single method for digital preservation, it’s a complex issue that is being tackled by archives and library professionals around the world. A few things to get you started:
Diversity your storage – much like your investment portfolio it’s a good idea to use different media and locations for storage. Spread your files around by function, form, or what works best for you. 4
Lots of Copies Keep Stuff Safe (LOCKSS) – used by libraries to plan multiple copies in multiple locations to guard against media failure and even natural disasters. 5 Depending on how you set it up, a computer backup may be a good duplicate copy, but don’t rely on automation you don’t fully understand.
The “3-2-1” rule – an easy to remember way to figure out your copies and storage solutions. 6
Make 3 copies
Save at least 2 copies on different types of media
Save 1 in a location different from where you live or work
Preserving your digital life may be hard, but it’s not impossible. Understanding the risks and taking a few starting steps will go a long way toward being able to have photographs, letters (email), video, and more for the next generation.
This week has been designated as Preservation Week by the American Library Association. This designation is a chance to highlight the importance of preserving items worthy of passing on to future generations. These items are held in thousands of museums, libraries and archival institutions, as well as in many family collections.
Here at the State Archives it is a core part of our job to preserve the records of government in Utah for the future. While we work with a large and diverse collection of government records, the basic principles of preserving these historical records are the same as those for preserving the historic family records you may have. The key to preserving any historic records is recognizing the threats that may damage or destroy them, and taking steps to reduce the risk from those threats. The major threats to our historical records include water, heat, light, dirt, pests, and handling. Here are a few tips to help preserve your priceless family documents:
Gather all your historic family photos and documents together, organize them, and make an inventory. Many family records are lost simply because we don’t keep track of what we have.
Put your family records in protective enclosures. Acid free archival boxes and folders are ideal for this. These enclosures can provide protection from water, dirt, and light and keep things from getting scattered.
Store your records in a climate controlled space. Wide swings in temperature and humidity will damage materials over time. Don’t store records in a shed or in the attic where temperatures can reach extremes. Avoid storing items under water pipes and if you store them in the basement, keep them at least six inches off the floor, in case of flooding.
Don’t wear out your priceless family heirlooms with use. Make sure your hands are clean when you handle them. Wear cotton or nitrile gloves to handle photographs. Make copies of things for hanging on the wall or for regular use. Don’t paste originals in scrapbooks or albums. Keep the original pristine for future generations. If you want to save your grandmother’s cookbook, copy the information and quit using the original. Digitize items to distribute copies among the family. Put the original away where it won’t get handled to death.
If you are worried about your ability to properly care for your family records or don’t have someone to pass them on to who will care for them, consider donating them to a professional institution where they can be preserved and available for the entire extended family for years to come. There are a variety of institutions throughout Utah that can be repositories to preserve your historic records. The Utah Manuscripts Association provides a list of most of the major archives in Utah.
By taking steps to protect the records that tell the story of our families, we can insure that the family legacy we have collected will live on to tell that story to future generations.
As many probably already know, 2017 is the 100th anniversary of the United States entering the Great War, later known as World War I. Our country was forever changed by the events of the Great War. Today’s social, cultural, economic, and political landscapes can be attributed in part to those events. Over the next year and a half, the Utah Division of Archives and Records Service will be highlighting record series related to the war to help us understand this period of time and the role local communities played in the larger conflict.
Today, April 6th, is the official anniversary of Congress’ announcement to enter the war.
This was a drastic change from the President’s plea for neutrality, made less than three years earlier. At the beginning of the war, Wilson urged Americans to remain neutral “during these days that are to try men’s souls,”1 and, while war raged in Europe, public opinion in our country was fractured. There were groups that sympathized with our European Allies and supported our entrance into the war. Other groups had family or friends still living in the countries under the rule of the Central Powers and wanted the United States to remain neutral. The isolationists, a third group, also felt that this conflict was not our business or our problem and that our country should not be involved at all.
Over the next three years, a number of factors contributed to Wilson’s change of mind. But America’s road to war is a topic so broad that historians have been writing books about it for decades. A select set of titles are offered below. All of these factors culminated in Wilson’s address to a Joint Session of Congress on April 2, 1917. Wilson’s forceful words were a ringing endorsement of protecting not only our country, but others who had suffered for trying to remain neutral as well; he asserted that Germany’s current tactics were “a warfare against all mankind… a war against all nations.”2
[America’s previous stance of neutrality was] no longer reasonable or desirable where the peace of the world [was] involved and the freedom of its peoples, and the menace to that peace and freedom [lay] in the existence of autocratic governments backed by organized force…controlled wholly by their will, not by the will of their people.3
Yet Wilson’s call to action was also a call for caution and moderation. America’s “motive [would] not be revenge or the victorious assertion of the physical might of the nation, but only the vindication of right, or human right, of which we are only a single champion.”4
Wilson’s words led to days of discussion throughout our country. From conversations around home fires to conversations in Congress, Americans were deeply invested in the outcome. Newspapers ran story after story about the ongoing war, U.S. responsibilities, and the danger of Germany and her allies. On April 6th, America officially entered the war as a result of votes in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Their resolution committed “all of the resources of of the country” to bringing “the conflict to a successful termination.”5
Wilson immediately signed the resolution and issued a War Proclamation later that same afternoon, which also identified “alien enemies” living within the United States, and outlined how they could expect to be treated.6
The events of April 6, 1917, still have an impact today. As we commemorate the various anniversaries, we hope to document and help facilitate better understanding of the role that Utahans played in the conflict and how the larger conflict affected Utah.
Upcoming posts will continue to highlight the images found in the 145th Field Artillery scrapbook, found in the State Archives’ permanent collection as we prepare it for online access through our Digital Archives.
You can learn more about World War I and the Centennial Commemoration events around the our country at the following links:
Utah National Guard, 145th Field Artillery scrapbook, 1917-1918, President Wilson’s Message Asking Congress to Declare that a State of War Exists with Germany, Utah State Archives and Records Service, Series 10339.
Utah National Guard, 145th Field Artillery scrapbook, 1917-1918,Text or Resolution passed by Congress, Utah State Archives and Records Service, Series 10339.
Utah National Guard, 145th Field Artillery scrapbook, 1917-1918, President Wilson Issues Proclamation that a State of War Exists, Utah State Archives and Records Service, Series 10339.
The Unannotated Code is the complete, codified law statutes reflecting changes in the most recent session. It has been published since 1982.
The Utah Code Annotated is, however, immensely valuable when it comes to research in the legislative process and how bills turn into law (and sometimes even the intent of the legislation). Unlike other records and publications that are produced by government agencies and preserved by the Utah State Archives, this publication represents the work of editors experienced with legal research, and is purchased for research and historical context. Supplements and replacement (“pocket parts”) are released a couple times a year.
Administrative Rules are created by agencies of the state’s executive branch and are enacted as laws under regulatory authority granted by the Legislature or the State Constitution. In short, the Legislature has created a method by which Executive branch agencies can codify their own policies and procedures and give them the force of law. Like the Utah Code, the Administrative Code is compiled with authorization by editors and published for the use of legal research. The most up-to-date information on rules is always found at rules.utah.gov.
October 10, 2015 marks the fourth annual celebration of Electronic Records Day, sponsored by the Council of State Archivists (COSA). COSA states that E-Records Day is an “opportunity to share information about what you are doing to manage your state’s digital resources and to enlist help in preserving electronic records. This day is designed to raise awareness among state government agencies, the general public, related professional organizations, and other stakeholders about the crucial role electronic records play in their world. This year, E-Records Day is highlighting the importance of appropriate management of electronic communications in government.”
It has been a busy year for the Utah State Archive’s with regard to our electronic records preservation initiative. We kicked it off by negotiating a storage plan with the Utah Department of Technology Services, which will provide the Utah State Archive’s with the necessary storage infrastructure to manage and preserve the state of Utah’s permanent electronic assets. This was followed by the formulation of three distinct project teams. These teams are currently working on improving the methods for electronic records transfer from state agencies, building the necessary policies and procedures that govern our electronic records preservation system, and implementing the necessary workflows and protocols for obtaining, processing, preserving, and distributing electronic records through our electronic record content management system.
In celebration of E-Records Day, the Utah State Archive’s is unveiling the draft version of our new Digital Preservation Framework! This document, modeled on similar frameworks from the University of Minnesota and the ICPSR Data Management Framework developed by Nancy McGovern, provides a top-level view of critical digital preservation principles and mandates. The framework offers necessary vision and structure on important electronic record preservation issues such as standards compliance, roles and responsibilities, ongoing organizational and financial sustainability, systems security, and procedural accountability.
The Digital Preservation Framework is evidence of the Utah State Archive’s institutional commitment to the preservation of Utah’s electronic record heritage. We invite comments and feedback, and hope that other repositories around the state join us in celebrating E-Records Day 2015!
The spring of 1953 brought with it unusually large losses in sheep herds that had spent that winter grazing in the mountains of southern Nevada and southern Utah. The winter and spring of 1952/1953 had been unusually dry, and most livestock owners had provided their herds with supplemental feed and water to make it through to summer. Of the approximately 11,710 sheep that had wintered within 40 miles north and 160 miles east of the Nevada Test Site (NTS) in 1953, 1420 lambing ewes and 2970 new lambs would ultimately succumb to a painful and mysterious death in the ensuing year.
In addition to the disturbing number of deaths, sheep owners also observed that many of their animals appeared to suffer from unusual burns on their faces and bodies. These burns were reminiscent of those documented in cattle that had been near the Trinity nuclear test site in New Mexico, when the world’s first atomic weapon was detonated on July 16, 1945. The burns were also similar to the beta burns found on horses living near the NTS, where above-ground nuclear testing had been taking place since 1951. Speculation quickly focused on two NTS nuclear test series, Operation Tumbler-Snapper conducted in 1952 and Operation Upshot-Knothole conducted in 1953, as the source of death and injury witnessed among the Cedar City sheep herds.
The first veterinarians outside of the Cedar City region to investigate the mysterious sheep deaths were John Curtis and F.H. Melvin, who were assisted by the Bureau of Animal Industry (under the Department of Agriculture). Both men were concerned with the possibility that radiation had played a primary role in the sheep deaths, and what that could mean for the human populations of southern Nevada and Utah. After their investigation, Curtis and Melvin returned to Salt Lake City and voiced their concerns to the director of the Utah Department of Health, Dr. George A. Spendlove. Based on that report, Spendlove immediately requested epidemic aid from the U.S. Public Health Service (USPHS) for further study.
In early June the USPHS sent three of their own investigators to Cedar City. These representatives included Monroe A. Holmes (a veterinarian for the Public Health Service Communicable Disease Center), Arthur H. Wolff (a veterinary radiologist at the Environmental Health Center), and William G. Hadlow (a veterinary pathologist at the Public Health Service Rocky Mountain Lab). When the USPHS representatives arrived in Cedar City they were joined by two investigators from the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC), the agency responsible for administering nuclear tests at the NTS. These AEC representatives included Major R.J. Veenstra (an Army veterinarian attached to the Naval Radiological Defense Lab in San Francisco), and R.E. Thompsett (a veterinarian on contract with the AEC who ran a private practice in Los Alamos, New Mexico).
The team of USPHS and AEC investigators observed sick lambs in Cedar City and initially concluded that radiation and malnutrition were the most likely candidates for problems afflicting the herds. Melvin A. Holmes drafted a report that brought together the investigative work from the seven different agencies initially involved with analyzing the sheep losses in Cedar City. In addition to the main report, individual reports were filed by Wolff, Veenstra, and Thompsett, each of which mentioned radiation more prominently than Holmes as the likely cause of the sheep deaths. These reports were immediately classified by the AEC and not provided to Cedar City sheep owners or local Iron County authorities.
The AEC was loathe to compensate for livestock losses based on harmful radiation due to the precedent it would have set for future claims of loss from exposure to fallout from tests at the NTS. This led to the AEC organizing a second investigation of the sheep herd losses in Cedar City in the summer of 1953. The investigators used in the second investigation had much closer ties to the AEC than those members of the first investigation team. They included Dr. Paul B. Pearson (chief of the AEC Division of Biology and Medicine), Lieutenant Colonel Bernard F. Trum (an Army veterinarian assigned tot he AEC agricultural research program at Oak Ridge, Tennessee), and Lieutenant Colonel John Rust (also of the AEC agricultural research program at Oak Ridge). This second investigatory group focused exclusively on malnutrition as the primary cause of sheep herd loss, and maintained zero contact with members from the first investigation. In a later court case, Iron County extension agent, Stephen Brower recalled a conversation with Paul Pearson in which the latter claimed that the AEC couldn’t expose itself to the risks of setting a precedent in paying sheep owners for their losses. Instead he suggested that the AEC might help fund a range study, again reinforcing the malnutrition narrative as the sole reason for losses and damages to the sheep herds around Cedar City. The AEC did subsequently provide $25,000 for a range study in the Cedar City and Nevada areas used by the sheepmen.
SQUARING THE INVESTIGATIONS
In August of 1953 all participants from the first and second sheep death investigations met in Salt Lake City to review the evidence from both studies. At this meeting there was concerted effort placed on the first group of investigators to abandon their position that radiation was a primary contributing cause to the sheep deaths.
On August 9, 1953, Paul Pearson met with livestock owners in Cedar City to discuss the second group of investigators findings. At that time malnutrition and disease in the herd were cited as the likely culprits. It was also at this time that AEC officials began advancing the premise that radiation levels from the NTS tests were too low to cause radiation poisoning in the sheep herds. In order to validate this claim separate radiation studies were conducted on sheep herds living near heavily irradiated sites in Los Alamos, New Mexico and Hanford, Washington. Sheep in these studies were exposed to varying levels of radiation and the effects were documented.
On October 27, 1953 members of both studies and AEC officials met in Los Alamos to again review evidence from the studies, as well as the evidence from the sheep radiation tests from Los Alamos and Hanford. The secretary for the meeting was AEC official Charles Dunning, who subsequently drafted a short report stating that the expert opinion held that there was a preponderance of evidence against fallout as a contributing cause in the sheep deaths. This report was signed by those in attendance, but the strong dissenting opinions from outside the AEC (primarily from Veenstra, Holmes, and Thompsett) remained.
With the resumption of atmospheric atomic tests as part of the Operation Teapot test series at the NTS in 1955, Cedar City sheep owners who had suffered heavy losses in 1953 filed suit against the AEC for $177,000 in damages. This led to AEC and Justice Department lawyers placing heavy pressure on members of the first investigation to officially change their position that radiation had served as a primary cause of the Cedar City sheep deaths (in order for the government to put up a unified front as defendant).
R.E. Thompsett (of the first investigation team) was heavily dependent on AEC money to fund a private animal hospital in Los Alamos, and eventually went on the record as abandoning his belief that radiation was a contributing cause. At the same time both Monroe A. Holmes and R.J. Veenstra (also of the first investigation team) agreed to disqualify themselves as expert witnesses if called upon to testify.
The trial took place in federal court in September of 1956 and lasted fourteen days. The government was represented by John Finn of the Justice Department’s Torts section, while the sheep owners were represented by Dan S. Bushnell. The judge presiding over the case was A. Sherman Christensen. The government’s defense (backed by expert witnesses and unclassified records) maintained that fallout levels from the Upshot-Knothole Test Series were too low to cause the sheep deaths, and that the timing between the atomic tests and subsequent sheep deaths was purely a coincidence. Judge Christensen sided with the expert testimony provided by the AEC, stating that the government was negligent in not warning sheep owners of potential fallout in the area, but nothing more.
THE LEGACY OF LIVING DOWNWIND
In 1979 a second case was brought to federal court, this time arguing that fallout from the Nevada Test Site was responsible for the death and suffering of human inhabitants of the downwind area south and east of the NTS. At this time records that had formerly been classified became public and the extent of the AEC cover-up with the 1952-1953 sheep case came to light.
Original records from the sheep studies revealed that the radiation dose levels in the thyroids of the affected Cedar City sheep were nearly 1000 times the permissible dose for humans. Records also revealed the extent to which AEC officials went to get members of the first investigation team to change their opinion of radiation as a primary cause in the sheep herd losses.
In February of 1981 six of the original plaintiffs from the 1955 lawsuit brought a new suit to federal court asking for a new trial. They claimed that fraud had been committed upon the court by AEC and Justice Department officials. Judge A. Sherman Christensen heard the case again and the plaintiffs were again represented by Dan S. Bushnell. A settlement offer was extended to the government of three million dollars for damages, but government representatives refused the offer. Evidence was heard over four days in May of 1982 and Christensen delivered his decision in August, ruling that at the time of the sheep radiation studies the AEC held monopoly on information and that government experts and attorneys had deliberately acted to withhold certain pieces of that information from the court.
Judge Christensen ordered that a new trial was to be held, but that decision was overturned on appeal by the Tenth Circuit Appeals Court in Denver. Eventually the case made its way to the U.S. Supreme Court where the Tenth Circuit decision was sustained by a 5-3 vote in January of 1986. Chief Justice Warren Burger (who had served as head of the Justice Departments Civil Division at the time of the original sheep case in 1955) disqualified himself from making a formal decision in the case.
Another court case was brought against the U.S. government in the early 1980’s and included residents from Iron County. The suit sought damages from the federal government, and was initially successful on a ruling from Judge Bruce Jenkins that awarded some damages to downwind cancer victims, and their families. However, the case was appealed, and the decision was also overturned by the federal Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals.
To date, the most tangible action taken to address the legacy of atmospheric nuclear testing in Nevada, and the impact it had on nearby populations, was passage of the 1990 federal Radiation Exposure Compensation Act, which created a trust-fund to award individuals who suffered from radiation-related injuries that occurred before adequate safety warnings were given, or safety protocols enacted in an effected area.
The story of the 1953 sheep deaths in Cedar City can be traced through sheep radiation study records created by the Utah Department of Health, and now maintained by the Utah State Archives.
A final valuable resource held by the Utah State Archives is various radiation study records gathered by the office of Utah Governor Scott Matheson. This collection, in particular, pulls together a variety of materials from a broad range of state and federal government agencies regarding tests conducted at the Nevada Test Site and their impacts on local southern Utah communities. These records once served as the backbone for policy decisions and stances on the issue of downwinder recompensation made by Governor Matheson, who himself grew up in the southern Utah town of Parowan during the era of above-ground atmospheric testing, and would later pass away from a rare multiple myloma cancer in 1990.
Fradkin, Philip L. Fallout: An American Nuclear Tragedy. Boulder: Johnson Books, 2004.
Fuller, John G. The Day We Bombed Utah: America’s Most Lethal Secret. New York: New American Library, 1984.