Moving to the Future – Digitizing Public Documents

DUBUQUE, IA – As people continue to move towards a digital society, the government of Dubuque County is making similar efforts.

Since the flooding in Iowa City a few years ago, the Dubuque County Recorder, John Murphy, has been concerned about the possibility of public documents such as abstracts, titles, bank records, and marriage/death/birth certificates being harmed in a natural disaster. As a result, he and his staff have recently started work on digitizing their collection of public documents.

Working with the Cott Systems computer company, the Recorder’s Office has begun the process of scanning aperture documents into computers to be saved on a new web site. Aperture documents are similar to microfilm in that they contain images of older documents for the purposes of preservation. However, this does not guarantee their safety, as they can still be damaged by fires, floods, or other natural disasters. As a result, Murphy has placed special attention on these documents in order to test out the digitization process.

To start out the project, the Recorder’s office will work on documents created between the years , a period which Murphy feels will help them start on other time periods. While the Recorder’s Office itself will do some work with the documents, ultimately Cott Systems will spend the most time, as they are the one who are building the website.

Murphy hopes that they can eventually preserve all current documents in an on-line location that can be accessed by the general public. Through the process, both the Recorder’s Office and Cott Systems recognize that there could be some privacy concerns, since the documents contain important information such as social security numbers. Murphy stated that there will be two versions of the documents, one of which will contain redactions and other measures to insure privacy, and one which contains more specific information which will only be accessible by himself and the staff of the Dubuque County Records Office. There will also be other measures from Cott Systems in an effort to minimize privacy issues or information theft.

Overall, it is hoped that the project will take approximately four to six months to complete, and they will be starting in earnest soon.

To see the story, please go to the LCTV YouTube channel.

For more information, you can contact either the Dubuque County Recorder’s Office on their website¬†or Cott Systems.

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Levi Bernhard is currently a senior student at Loras College. He originally hails from St. Benedict, a small town near Algona, Iowa. Levi is a reporter and crew member for LCTV News, and helps contribute stories to productions. A couple years ago, he worked as an intern at Kossuth Regional Health Center, recording and editing videos. This past January, he went on a travel January Term course to Greece, where he helped create a couple of short documentaries about the country. He enjoys being in media studies because he likes the concepts of telling stories to wide audiences, and working with a variety of technology. He is also in media studies because he has a dream of becoming a filmmaker.

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