NEWPORT — Tucked away in Newport’s Town Hall sits a trove of historical documents of local significance that captures the way of life for residents throughout the past several centuries. Now, in an effort to make this information widely accessible, work is underway in the Newport town clerk’s office to preserve more than 700 town military and war records of residents from the 19th and early 20th centuries with the help of over $9,000 in state grant funds and some dedicated employees.
Last month, the town clerk’s office received $9,335 in funds from the New Hampshire State Library Conservation License Plate Program — informally known as the Moose Plate Program — to continue the office’s ambitious preservation and digitizing of town historical records, some which date as far back as the mid-1700s.
Town Clerk Liselle Dufort said this is the fifth year of their project and funding from the Moose Plate Program. Dufort credited Deputy Town Clerk Adelaide Kozlik for initiating this project and assuming the grant writing to the New Hampshire State Library Conservation License Plate Program.
“This project is really her baby,” Dufort said. “One day she came to me, expressing interest in our records and wanting to preserve them. She had also heard about the Moose Plate Program and said she wanted to learn how to apply for grant funds.”
The project’s focus this year is to conserve, microfilm and digitize the town’s military and war documents dated between 1812-1907. Many of these documents are from the Civil War, the War of 1812 with Britain and the American Indians and the Spanish-American War.
While the project has also preserved and archived records from taxes and deeds to chattel, Dufort said that the military and war documents are particularly popular with the public.
Documents include records of soldiers rations, meals and vouchers; enlisted soldiers from Newport; troop inspections; honorable discharge papers; and newspapers. Additionally, the town found two Civil War diaries belonging to a Luther Fitch of Newport. Each diary — one dated 1864 and the other 1865 — contains at least 100 pages.
To date the town has conserved 17 volumes of records, including town inventories during the early- to mid-1800s and town highway records between 1813-1937. There are also three volumes of military records: New Hampshire Company Orderly book, 1847-1855; a state Militia Company Orderly book, 1848-1854; and the Fred Smyth Post #10 Department of the New Hampshire Grand Army of the Republic, 1861-1913.
The public can view many of the documents already archived on the town website. A link to the digital archive is located on the town clerk’s office page at www.newportnh.gov/town-clerk.
Some volumes, however, consume one or more gigabytes of memory and therefore were too large to put on the town website, according to Dufort. The public will need to visit the town office to access these books.
The archiving process a “pretty exhausting process,” Dufort said.
The grant funding covers the contracted services of Kofile Technologies, of Essex, Vermont, who handles the scanning and digitizing of the documents. In addition to digitizing documents for online access, documents must also be converted into microfilm, which get stored at the New Hampshire Records and Archives and the State Library.
Historical papers are mended, cleaned and acidified, which will preserve them for another century, according to Dufort. Documents that are too brittle to be handled must be encased.
Dufort, Kozlig and Assistant Clerk Jennifer Souliotis spend their downtime in the office working on the project.
Kolzig will start working on the next grant application in January to complete for submission sometime around April or May, according to Dufort.
“It’s a lot of work, and she is putting so much into this project,” Dufort said.
In five years, Newport has received more than $46,000 in grant funding from the Moose Plate Program to conserve its historic documents.
Established in 1998 by the state legislature, the Moose Plate Program raises funds entirely through the sale of the state’s specialty ‘moose license plate. Proceeds from these plate sales got toward New Hampshire environmental and cultural conservation programs.
“It’s a fantastic program,” Dufort said. “We’re trying to do more to inform people that the $30 they pay for a moose license plate goes to fund community projects like this.”
Dufort also recommended visiting the program’s website at www.mooseplate.com. The site provides an interactive map that lets users see exactly where grant funds have gone, by community, amount and the purpose.