In order to preserve this human history, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints began construction in 1960 of the unique storage and production facility known as the Granite Mountain Records Vault (GMRV). Completed in 1966 the visible manifestation of this project is a concrete building with six 14-ton portals, which juts out of the wall of granite, 200 feet above the road that runs through Little Cottonwood Canyon in Utah. The 6 vaults are divided into two sections connected by a central corridor, one for storage and one for production and preservation.
A network of catacombs tunnels 700 feet into the mountain and are lined with rows of metal cabinets, (25'W x 15'T x 200'L), facing each other. These cabinets contain 2.3 million 35mm and 16mm microfilm rolls equal to 6 million 300-page volumes, and 180,000 sets of microfiche with 900 images per fiche. These films contain the records of genealogical value from 105 countries, Afghanistan to Zimbabwe. An extensive computerized air-filtration system maintains the environment at the 60° F temperature with 30% humidity considered ideal for long- term storage. This system was designed specifically to protect the media from contamination and preserve it for future generations.
The production area maintains a trained and skilled staff that film, inspect, clean, and copy the collection. On any given day over 1000 rolls of microfilm and 1000 sets of microfiche will be processed. The master or original film remains in the Vault, but reproductions are made to replace older and worn film. These reproductions are distrubuted to non-profit organizations and over 4500 Family History Centers throughout the world. The production team is working closely with governments and archivist to secure permissions, observe privacy laws, and work within accepted standards for filming and record preservation. The Family History Department of the Church is presently involved in helping the chief archivist of the African nation of Ghana to film all census, marriage, and legal records that are in the archive building in Accra. This global preservation effort has placed 275 camera crews in 44 countries that are adding daily to the collection. The Church does not pursue filming records of living individuals. Generally the records from the Vault are of people deceased for at least 100 years or more.
Few visitors are allowed in the Vault. Contrary to rumors and speculation it is not due to attempts at secrecy, but involves the maintainance of the Vault's environment. The key words for family history research are protection and preservation. A vast amount of money, time, and effort was expended in assembling this massive collection and it is important that it be protected and preserved for future generations. The genealogist of today will thereby make it much easier for the genealogist of the future to trace their heritage. There is not a family researcher who does not wish our ancestors had done as much for us.
The Granite Mountain Records Vault is a monument to the perseverance and dedication of thousands of people all over the world who collect, film, catalog, index, and maintain mankind's tangible proof of existence. At this very moment technology is being developed that will ensure the long-term preservation of these records in a digital or electronic format, and researchers will see the day when this data preservation will no longer depend on microfilm or microfiche.
Source Information: GenWeekly, New Providence, NJ, USA: Genealogy Today LLC, 2006.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Genealogy Today LLC.
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