VIEWING INSIDE GRANITE MOUNTAIN
September 19, 2010
Those heavy iron doors on the side of a granite mountain road just outside Salt Lake City mystify me. What treasures are inside that vault? I want to peek inside to satisfy my curiosity. I’ve been inside archives and in the basement of the National Archives in Washington, so I have an idea of the appearance, and I’m aware of the temperature-humidity controls necessary in archives and vaults to preserve aging documents. It’s just the thought that I cannot go inside that vault underneath 700 feet of granite and may never be invited inside that encourages the mystery behind those doors of the Family History Library’s Granite Mountain Vault.
I have known about the vault for years. Probably all genealogists know the Family History Library (FHL) stores the microfilm of the world’s records in Granite Mountain. There are records stored there that are the only copies in the world. Only a minimum number of approved workers can enter because the temperature and humidity must be maintained at all times. Some of the top VIPs cannot enter.
A reader sent me a link she found that shows videos of the inside. That made me as happy as a kid in a candy store. I wanted to see inside. Sure enough, it closely resembles other archives I had seen, but this was different because technology had progressed since 1995 when I was at the National Archives. Digitization was in its infantsy then. At that time, they speculated that in the future microfilm would be phased over onto compact disks. Family history has changed drastically in the intervening years.
The FHL began collecting records in 1894 but by 1938, they realized they needed a safe and secure place to store this valuable collection. The construction at Granite Mountain began in 1957 but it was not finished until 1965. There are hallways that comprise over 65,000 feet. The 60 staff members navigate the halls, which are 20 feet wide and 15 feet high, and reinforced by steel, carved into Granite Mountain. The records represent 160 languages of the world. It is there the staff constantly monitor the inside conditions, collect, film, store, preserve, and use modern technology to digitize and store the collection of families and history. They use the water in the 33,000-gallon reservoir inside and in the back for microfilming purposes.
A major problem in transferring microfilm to digitized copies is that each roll of film varies in density making this a slow process. The video explained to hasten the process technology is now available to use computer algorithms to make the image as sharp as, or more so, than the original microfilm. Using this technology, each copy of a copy is as vibrant as the other is. Once the microfilm film is digitized, it is available anytime to anyone all over the world at no cost over the Internet, but there is a small fee to rent the microfilm for viewing at local Family History Centers. The Internet site for searching the collection is www.familysearch.org.
I hope you all take advantage of the two videos. Seeing the inside of those steel concrete reinforced doors is a real treat. View video #1 at www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfXVvWb0qOQ%20 and the second one at www.youtube.com/watch?v=y1OqEEbRTVw.
CELTIC GENEALOGY SEMINAR: The Clayton Library Friends Seminar in Houston is on the Irish and Scots/Irish, Saturday October 16, 2010, 10:15 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. The $30 registration fee goes up to $40 after October 10. Lunch is optional for a cost of $10. Mail registration to Clayton Library Friends, P. O. Box 271078, Houston, TX 77277-1078, and note “Irish Seminar.” Their email is firstname.lastname@example.org.
Brenda Kellow has a bachelor's degree in history, teaches, and lectures on genealogy. Before retiring to publish her family’s histories in 2007, Brenda held certification as a Certified Genealogist and as a Certified Genealogical Instructor. Send reunion announcements, books to review, and genealogy queries to: TracingOurRoots@gmail.com.