Browse through Carmel’s government history online

Diana Cordray shows old documents. (Photo by Adam Aasen)

Diana Cordray shows old documents. (Photo by Adam Aasen)

Clerk-Treasurer Diana Cordray recently received a visit from the Carmel Clay Historical Society.

New Executive Director Whitney Dennis, who was hired in October, was curious to see some of the historic documents the city kept, such as old ordinances.

To her surprise, not only did Cordray store all of the documents in acid-free paper, but her staff had already scanned every document into a computer. These historic items can now be viewed by anyone using lazer fische, a document-sharing service accessible through the city’s Web site.

History buffs can go all the way back to the 1800s and peruse old hand-written resolutions and more.

“I don’t if they knew how much I valued history,” Cordray said. “It’s very important to me which is why I wanted to preserve all of these documents make them available to the public.”

When Cordray was elected in 1995 and took office in 1996, she said she discovered a warehouse full of files. Some were recent and some were very old. She said the aged documents would have been at risk of degrading since they weren’t stored using acid-free paper.

In 2000, Cordray began using the lazer fische software to catalogue all of the city’s files online. The idea was to help inter-department communication and provide transparency for voters. In some cases, it would remove the need for filing Freedom of Information Act requests to obtain certain documents.

But Cordray thought the site could couldn’t just be used going forward – but backward as well. It took about a year and a half, but her staff scanned in all of the historic documents they have in their possession.

More than a decade later, Cordray said most people still don’t realize this resource is available. She said it’s fun to look back at how much the city has changed. The population has grown from 500 people in 1900 to 1,442 people in 1960 to more than 85,000 people in 2013. The area was mostly rural. Cordray said she’s seen many old documents dealing with issues such as chickens in people’s yards.

And there are times when old laws can be referenced. Just a few months ago, when the Clerk-Treasurer’s Office had a disagreement with the Mayor’s Office about paying for clearing snow from sidewalks, an attorney general opinion from 1965 was quoted.


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