Back in 2002, Councillor Hartley visited the Cemetery Records stored in the basement of Belfast City Hall, and reported to the Parks and Amenities Sub-Committee that he believed that the humidity and temperature in the basement was too high for storing such important historical documents. He suggested that this needed examined, and that consideration be given to moving them to a database instead.
Of course the official response was that after careful examination, the civil servants couldn’t see any problem with the current situation, but they would certainly produce a report on this.
Now maybe it’s just my inability to use the council minutes system, but I’ve been unable to find this report being brought back to the sub-committee.
Instead, the only further information I can find on cemetery records is the meeting of February 2005, when this time /several/ members raise the issue.
This time, though, they’re more sympathetic to the civil servants who do such a wonderful job carrying out their duties in such terrible conditions. And, this time, the sub-committee decides that something needs to be done as “a matter of urgency” – although the main thing they ask for is more space. The issue of the computerised records (or the possible destruction of all the records due to excess humidity) isn’t raised by the Councillors, although it is reported that a proposal will be made that these records be included in the Information Age Government Programme of Activities for the Council.
I don’t know if this was considered back in 2002 and it was decided not to go ahead, or whether this idea just vanished into the ether somewhere. But, there really isn’t much excuse for making people dig through paper records these days. So, I’ve made a Freedom of Information request for the report that the Head of Parks and Amenities promised to produce back in 2002. Belfast City Council have been very good at responding to my FoI requests to date, and much quicker than the main government departments, so hopefully I’ll have something more to report soon.