Historical records finding a home in Porter County
By Amy Lavalley Post-Tribune correspondent September 23, 2012 7:22PM
Kevin Pazour looks on as Porter county clerk Karen Martin scans the pages of a 1853 record of indictments at the Porter County Museum of History Wednesday Sept. 19, 2012. Pazour is the museum director. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
Updated: October 25, 2012 6:09AM
VALPARAISO — Porter County Clerk Karen Martin and Kevin Pazour, executive director of the Porter County Museum, are working together to save county documents dating back to the late 1800s.
Some of the records are in decades-old binders and include an 1873 jail log, when people faced $4.70 fines for insanity. Others are loose papers, and include wills. Also in the mix are physicians and dentists registries.
Much of it was destined for destruction until Pazour and Martin stepped in to save the early records. Now, Martin’s office is cataloging, scanning and organizing them. Her office will keep the bound books, while the loose items, which also include lawsuits and small claims, will eventually go to the Valparaiso branch of the Porter County Public Library. All the documents will be available for view by the public.
“When I started doing this, people didn’t realize that you have to maintain your history, and this is part of our history,” Martin said.
The old documents, along with more recent county records, were in a storage facility on Axe Avenue until last year, when Martin cleared space in the Porter County Courthouse for them. The storage facility was not temperature or humidity controlled, which could have damaged the records.
“Materials like this need to be preserved by getting them here, and then to the library to be shared,” Martin said.
The work dovetails with an effort by Pazour to clean out and catalog items that have been donated to the museum over the years, as well as returning items that have been on loan. That takes place as Pazour prepares to restore the old jail and move the rest of the museum to the former Valparaiso Police Department building half a block west of the museum on Indiana Avenue.
The first phase of the museum move includes a façade restoration for the old police station, which Pazour said is actually two buildings constructed in 1878. The second phase entails restoring the interior of the building, so the museum can move in by 2014. The whole project will cost about $1.9 million, all covered by grants, foundation money and private donations.
In the meantime, Pazour and Martin are having fun taking a peek into the county’s past through its old records.
“I think a lot of people forget these records are part of people’s lives,” Pazour said. “Records just sitting here don’t do anybody any good.”