Joseph Klett

Archiving 350 Years of New Jersey History

Before You Go

This year marks the 350th anniversary of the founding of New Jersey, and there is no resource that documents its history better than the New Jersey State Archives.

Located at 225 West State Street in Trenton, the State Archives preserves and promotes three-and-a-half centuries of New Jersey history dating back to 1664, and is the state’s official repository and research center for public records. Its main building has approximately 25,000 square feet of space, which houses more than 30,000 boxes (cubic feet) of paper records, with another 8,500 boxes in storage at an outside location. It also has more than 34,000 reels of microfilm, which can serve as either a legal replacement to original documents, or as a way for visitors to use documents, without causing “wear and tear” to the originals.

“The New Jersey State Archives is a place where the public can come to find resources for research or personal use, which includes birth, marriage and genealogical records, town, county and military history, and governmental records from different branches,” says Joseph R. Klett, director of the Archives. “Any document relating to these aspects, and any document that is significant to New Jersey’s history, will eventually make its way here for public consumption.”

The Archives is open free of charge, but has fees associated with photocopied documents or services such as reproduced copies of photographs and maps. Klett says the Archives sees between 900 and 1,300 in-person visitors every quarter. However, that number is only a small fraction in terms of how it supplies information to the public.

“A vast majority of our ‘visitors’ don’t even come into the building to utilize what we offer,” he says. “We receive a lot of written letters and e-mails asking us to help find certain documents. We also have an extensive online catalog that includes photographs, maps, manuscripts, genealogical information, as well as other documents that celebrate New Jersey’s history. And, every day, we are continuously adding more.”

Klett says that with the way technology is changing, and with many documents “born digitally,” the Archives’ infrastructure has to catch up and adapt, in order to store digital files.

“The infrastructure to store digital files isn’t quite there yet, and there are challenges with keeping those files in terms of how you can use them and preserve them in the future,” he says. “With paper, 350 years from now, those important documents will still be physically in our vaults. What we don’t know, is how technology will change 350 years from now, in being able to preserve and access those digital files.”

What Klett does know, however, is the pride he and his staff of 18 have in what they do. “We take our roles as the preservers, keepers and sharers of information very seriously,” he concludes. “We love what we do. Giving people the ability to access the history of their families and their state is what keeps us going.”

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