return to the home page
return to the home page login
Return to the about page
go to the search pagego to the about pagego to the collaborators pagego to the questions pagego to the resources pagego to your myResearch page
The Archivists' Work
From the inception of the project in 1999, archivists of the Missouri State Archives’ Local Records Program have worked to preserve and provide access to the St. Louis Circuit Court historic records.
Faced with over 500 cubic feet of unprocessed nineteenth century case files alone, the Missouri State Archives staff has focused their preservation efforts on the earliest cases, dating from 1804 through 1835 and totaling 9,551.  In addition, archivists have also processed and indexed 2,500 representative cases from subsequent years, as well as over 5,000 Mechanics’ Liens that span the years 1824 to 1875.
Throughout this project, the Missouri State Archives adheres to standard archival, conservation, and descriptive practices.

Document Processing

  • The tri-folded case files, which were stored in metal till drawers and are covered with over a hundred years worth of dirt and coal dust, are first cleaned lightly with Japanese brushes to remove loose surface particles.
  • Case files are humidified as necessary, utilizing Gore-Tex laminate and dry between felts or blotters in order to relax the pages.
  • Once flattened, the documents are cleaned of dirt and coal dust using hake brushes, dry cleaning sponges and/or vinyl erasers.
  • Items used to attach documents -- such as straight pins, ribbons, wax, thread, and starch wafers -- are removed to allow for proper arrangement, filming, and scanning.
  • Due to age, environment, use, and paper type, many of the documents have sustained damage over time and are very fragile.  These documents are placed in protective polyester sleeves.
  • All case files are arranged by year, term of court, and case number.  Documents within each case file are reviewed for content and arranged chronologically by date filed.
  • Oversized records are removed from the case files and stored separately in appropriate-sized folders and boxes to permit flattening, provide proper safe storage and handling, and access.  References to the separated material are printed on acid-free paper and placed in each folder from which documents are removed.
  • Cases are verified against existing original court indices and record books.  Each folder is labeled with the following information: record group, court type, series, year, term of court, case file number, plaintiff(s), defendant(s), cause of action, attorneys, notes (verdict, judgment, or final resolution, etc.), box and folder numbers.
  • All case files are housed in archival folders and document cases.
As described above, the vast majority of preservation work required to stabilize condition of the records is handled by archivists, however, badly damaged documents that also contain significant historical information and are valuable as artifacts, are flagged for possible treatment in the Archives’ conservation lab.

Improving Access

Until recently, the only access to the cases was through the original direct and inverted indexes.  While usable, these volumes are often in poor physical condition and provide only the most basic information: plaintiff and defendant names(s), year, term of court and case file number.
Archivists are significantly enhancing access to the records through the creation of a comprehensive database index that contains a unique entry for each of the processed case files.  In accordance with Dublin Core metadata standards, and following the Missouri State Archives established procedures, this information includes provenance, a description of each case, and access information taken directly from the processed file folder.
Archivists also produce series descriptions that meet basic Encoded Archival Description (EAD) requirements and finding aids for related records series.
Once indexed, the case files are ready to be microfilmed and/or digitized, and made available for research.
Return to About
Archivists order case files by year and term of court.
Archivists order case files by year and term of court.
Student interns assist with basic document cleaning and processing.
Student interns assist with basic document cleaning and processing.
Archivists enter information about every case file into an electronic database that will enable researchers to quickly locate cases regarding particular individuals or subjects.
Archivists enter information about every case file into an electronic database that will enable researchers to quickly locate cases regarding particular individuals or subjects.
Documents require surfacing cleaning to remove the dirt and soot deposits from the 19th and 20th centuries.
Documents require surface cleaning to remove the dirt and soot deposits from the 19th and 20th centuries.