As we look back at the year just ended, it is clear that our efforts to bring more and more of the Archives to life online is having an big impact. In 2014 alone, visits to our main website (archives.westchestergov.com) have jumped 20% over 2013, while visits to our Digital Collections (collections.westchestergov.com) have risen even more: by 30%. And although the numbers are much lower, we also have growing audiences on Facebook and Twitter, with our “Throw Back Thursday” (#TBT) postings becoming more and more popular with those followers. Westchestergov.com on facebook similarly posts historical Westchester images – many from our collections – once a week, so be sure to subscribe to those feeds as well so you can get a double dose of Westchester’s rich pictorial history.
Our online presence was broadened this past year with the addition of several new Digital Collections:
- County Executive Annual Messages
- District Attorney Case Files – Obscure, Noteworthy and Notorious
- Westchester County Government Annual Reports –- Park and Recreation Commission
- Atlas of County Owned Lands
In addition, more images were uploaded to one of our largest collections already on the site: the Park Commission photographs collection and improvements were made to the cataloguing and cross-referencing of the images in the Bronx Parkway Commission Photograph Album collection.
Volunteers in Archives Update
All this online work does not mean paper records are obsolete however! Our Volunteers In Archives members, as well as several summer student interns worked hard this past year processing and indexing records, thus making even more of them available to the public. Some highlights from 2014 include:
- Completion of our new Professional Registers index. Look for it to be online by the end of March 2015.
- Continued work on indexing our Surrogates records, Naturalization records (1927-1955), Incorporation records, and Jail Blotter Books. Keep checking back to see what has been added to these indexes.
- Over 1,150 hours volunteered in the Archives’ Reading Room helping approximately 450 researchers who visited the Archives’ in person during 2014. Although the number of in-person visitors has fallen somewhat over the last few years, we are probably more than making up for that with our online traffic and mail and telephone reference requests.
Newly Processed Collections
Processing rates remained steady in 2014, with another 240 cubic feet of records processed and made available to researchers during the year. Collections now open for research include:
Charter and Administrative Code Revision Committee Records, 1957-1961: Appointed in 1957 by County Executive James D. Hopkins, the Charter and Administrative Code Revision Committee was made up of county supervisors, department heads and representative citizens to study the laws of Westchester County and to suggest revisions. This collection contains a list of committee members, minutes of their meetings and the two reports that were issued by the committee.
Community Mental Health Board – Miscellaneous Records, 1955-1956: A 1955 transcript of a public hearing on the needs for community mental health support in the community, a 1956 program report and a 1961 procedures and policies manual document the activities of the Westchester County Community Mental Health Board.
Department of Public Works Engineering Office Correspondence Files, 1966-1975 (bulk 1968-1974): Files primarily kept and organized by the Department of Public Works’ Chief Engineer Frank E. Bohlander. The correspondence, between various county departments, contractors and vendors, focuses on three main subjects: Grasslands, government buildings, and county parks and roads. In addition to letters and memoranda, the collection includes maps, drawings, sketches, legal cases, disciplinary actions, budgets, punch lists, newspaper clippings and minutes of meetings. Bohlander went on to serve as Commissioner of Public Works from 1974-1986, so these files overlap with those responsibilities for a short period of time.
Elijah Miller House / Washington’s Headquarters Museum Records, ca. 1971-2011: Materials relate to the operation of the Elijah Miller House / Washington’s Headquarters Museum and were assembled by staff of the Westchester County Parks Department who acted as curators at this historic house museum. Issues of particular interest include the continued concern about the physical deterioration of the house and its collections and attempts to preserve it; the value of the house as a teaching museum for school groups, and the operation of the house by the Daughters of the American Revolution.
Health Department: Community Relations Records, 1948-1982 (bulk late 1960s-1981): Administrative and informational records of the Community Health Education and Information office of the Westchester County Department of Health. The files highlight community relations activities and document efforts to inform and educate the public about health issues and topics, as well as health services and health care available in Westchester County. The records also demonstrate the participation of staff of the Westchester County Health Department in health education programs in the county, New York State, and at educational and religious institutions. The bulk of the records date from the late 1960s through 1981 and were primarily created and maintained during the administration of Winifred Steed, director of the Office of Health Education and Information, and her staff. Materials found in the collection include memoranda, letters, booklets and pamphlets, brochures, conference proceedings and handouts, computer data control sheets, newspaper clippings, news releases, newsletters, and photographs. A significant number of newspaper clippings were obtained from local clipping services; operational files such as budget records are included as well as records that monitored the operations and functions of County healthcare facilities such as dental clinics and mobile dental vans and neighborhood health centers.
Office of Communications Press Clippings Files, 1997: Newspaper articles from Westchester and New York City papers dealing with issues affecting Westchester County as a whole and/or County government / personnel, that were collected by the Office of Communications, during the last year of the administration of County Executive Andrew O’Rourke (1997).
Parks Department Commissioner’s Office Records, 1925-1989 (bulk 1970s-1980s): Correspondence, memos, reports, maps and plans, contracts, brochures, meeting minutes, budgets, and various other types of administrative records relating to the operations of the Westchester County Parks Department (and its predecessor, the Park Commission), as maintained in the office of the Commissioner over the course of six and a half decades. The earliest records, from the late 1920s through 1930s, document construction on some of Westchester’s parkways, particularly relating to storm drains, sewers and water mains. Other topics covered from the earliest days of the Park Commission include individual park and golf facilities as well as broad topics such as conservation, foot paths, real estate, and tennis. Records relating to some of these topics, and others as well, continue through the entire time period covered by the collection. Other topics, such as capital projects, handicapped/disabled, Croton landfill, open space, and urban parks, only appear for later time periods, as do materials for more recently acquired park properties.
Playland Administrative Records, 1979-1988 (bulk 1982-1988): This collection documents the administrative activities of Playland while it was privately operated by Marriott Corporation (1980-1982) as well as the years following when management of the park returned to Westchester County. These records pertaining to the daily operation of the park, and cover such topics as budgets, concession fees, operation schedules, personnel, maintenance, and accidents and complaints. The majority of the collection includes correspondences from Commissioners Joseph Caverly and Jim Arles to various individuals in the Parks Department or Playland attendees.
Tax Sales and Tax Registers, 1862-1914 (gaps): In the mid-1800s Westchester County enacted a law to encourage timely payment of property taxes, under which property for which no tax had been paid by a certain date was sold at auction by the county. After one year, if the original owner had not redeemed his or her property (by paying the original taxes plus interest and additional fees), the purchaser had the right to lease it. Transactions made under the Westchester County Tax Sale Law were recorded in the County Treasurer’s Office. These volumes vary slightly in format but are organized by locality and contain the taxpayers’ names, tax amounts (before and after interest), lot descriptions, sale dates, purchasers’ names, sale prices, and lease durations.
World War I Alien Registration Forms, 1918: After the United States entered World War I, the Department of Justice required that all German and Austrian immigrants not yet naturalized file alien registration forms with their local police departments. These forms, which vary slightly based on the sex of the registrant, include information about home address, length of residence in the United States, alternate residences since 1914, employment details, immigration history, criminal history, and physical characteristics. They also include fingerprints and a photograph of the registrant. The WWI Alien Registration Forms collection held by the Westchester County Archives is for registrants with last names beginning with the letters H through Z who filed their forms with the Yonkers Police Department. These records have been indexed in our online naturalization index because they contain detailed demographic information, including immigration history, regarding registrants.
Looking Ahead to 2015
Although only time will tell for sure, we are looking forward to another successful year. Although we may not be as prolific in launching Digital Collections, we still have plans to grow those we already have online, particularly the Park Commission collection, and to add a few more, including the spectacular Bronx Parkway Commission collection. Keep an eye out too for a small collection of images from the Elijah Miller House (otherwise known as Washington’s Headquarters Museum) to be launched in the first half of 2015.
In addition, we hope that with the assistance of our stellar volunteers and staff, we will continue to process records at the same rate as previous years. Currently underway is work on a collection of Youth Bureau / Youth Services files, the papers of past-Planning Commissioner Peter Eschweiler, and hundreds of maps documenting parkways in the county. Check back this summer to see how we’ve progressed.