Looking at county records for historical research has now become easier, thanks to a joint effort between the White River Valley Historical Society, The Mountain Complex, and Taney County government offices. Recently, the Taney County Commission designated the WRVHS as its’ sole source provider for historic research and document preservation, as well as The Mountain as the sole source provider for imaging the county’s vintage ledger books.

“We’re looking forward to this collaboration between the County, Historical Society, and Mountain Complex,” said Presiding Commissioner Ron Houseman. “Many of these records are over 100 years old, and we’re anxious to have them imaged so that they can be kept safely stored while still allowing the public to have access to the information.”

Due to the efforts of Recorder Robert Dixon with the purchase of the County’s Docuware program nine years ago, images of the documents held by his office are now available at designated computer workstations. This allows researchers to view, and print, copies of public records with no handling of the original documents, many of which are in very fragile condition.

“Taney County has more records on Docuware in the state than anyone else”, Dixon explained. “We have many businesses and individuals who use our records for current business needs, and also have had frequent visitors come in to do historic research. Having the items on Docuware has saved many hours of staff time, since they only need to instruct the people on using the program at the workstations, rather than having to take time to bring out the original records. By designating the White River Valley Historical Society as the provider for historic county records research, we’re now referring individuals interested in those documents to the Society, giving the researcher the added benefit of working directly with those familiar with Taney County history and genealogy.”

The WRVHS has had Docuware access to the deed records, marriage licenses, and other archival maps and documents held by the Recorder for some time. With the designation of sole-source provider, the 50-year-old Society will begin the long-term project of adding items held by the Circuit Court and County Clerk to the Docuware program, with plans to include other county offices in the future. The Mountain, which designed and built low-imaging equipment for these types of items, will image all hardbound record books, while the Society will scan loose papers and index all the images.

One criteria of the sole source designation for both the WRVHS and The Mountain is that any of the originals in their possession that are not yet accessible in Docuware be available within twenty-four hours at the county office, or historical society, if requested by a member of the public. With the location of the WRVHS within walking distance of the Judicial Center and Courthouse, and the nearby location of The Mountain in Branson, this criteria has been met.

“We’re extremely excited about this project,” said WRVHS Managing Director Leslie Wyman. “Taney County has a rich history with many archival documents providing additional information about those early days, some as far back as the 1880’s. But, as is the case with many other counties, access to those files requires that county employees take time away from their regular duties to locate the information. After meeting with Circuit Clerk Brenda Neal and Circuit Judge Mark Orr, we plan to start with the criminal and civil court cases and naturalization records for their department. At the same time, we’ll be indexing The Mountain’s images of the many one-room-school record books and commission meeting minutes held by Clerk Donna Neeley’s office. Completion of this project will take several years, but even if not in Docuware yet, we’ll be able to physically locate the records for historic researchers and take that burden away from county employees. Eventually, we plan to include the archives of other county departments into the project.”

“We’re lucky to have several volunteers and staff in the Society who will dedicate time to this project”, Wyman continued. “But, we definitely need more help, and I encourage anyone interested in Taney County’s historic records to become involved, either by directly working with these archives or freeing up some of our other people who currently are on duty greeting our museum visitors, helping people in our research library, or uploading our many photos and collection items to our museum software.”

The Mountain Complex is located in Branson, 103 feet above the top of Table Rock Dam, inside a dolomite rock mountain, with 3,000,000 square feet of storage space. It not only offers document imaging, but is also a secure storage center and provides secure data centers for businesses.

“When we started our record storage business years ago, I would call on counties and ask how far back do their historic records go. They all said something like, ‘Let’s see, the flood was in…’ or ‘the fire was in…’ or ‘the tornado was in…’”, The Mountain Complex President Gail Hinshaw said. “It became apparent counties needed to have their old historic books protected and to do that they needed to be scanned into computer images. The equipment to do that cost hundreds of thousands of dollars. This made the price prohibitive for the counties so we developed our own equipment and wrote our own software. Local engineer Harold Hartzell added his touch to our equipment and now we are able to offer scanning services at very competitive prices. We understand the importance of maintaining historical documents so naturally we have worked with Bob Dixon as well as the White River Valley Historical Society over the years to preserve documents for future generations.”

“Taney County is a first-class county”, Recorder Dixon stated, “and we need to advance to that level of service to the public. This is a huge step in that direction.”

To view these records as they become available, or to be involved with this project, call 417-546-2210, or email the Society at research@wrvhs.org.