For centuries, the County Clerks maintained records at the Clerk’s office and, when space was no longer available, in various other buildings in Freehold. By the late 1970s, conditions in some of these secondary storage locations were abysmal, including the Hall of Records basement, where there had been a flood; a leaky former ice house behind the Hall of Records; and a notoriously moldy and vermin-infested warehouse on Manalapan Avenue. After touring the warehouse, George M. Cunha, one of the most respected paper conservators in the United States, commented that the conditions were the worst he had ever seen. Some of these records were rescued and moved to safer storage locations, including state facilities in Trenton.
Jane Clayton, then the first female Chosen Freeholder in the history of the county, became committed to addressing the issue, especially after she became County Clerk in 1980. Clayton held many meetings and carefully considered reports with recommendations by Karl J. Niederer of the New Jersey State Archives and consultant James B. Rhoads, a former Archivist of the United States. But finally, agreement was reached by the Freeholders that the planned county library in Manalapan should include provision for an archives and records center. Ground was officially broken on July 19, 1984, and the library opened in January 1987. Very soon thereafter, Clayton moved or added staff there to operate the archives and records section. In large quantities, records were delivered into the facility from various locations over the next few years and staff began the laborious and intensive tasks of organizing, indexing, describing, and rehousing them into archival folders and boxes. Clayton also moved the Central Microfilming Department, which had been established in 1975, from the Hall of Records into the new section. Part of its mission has been to microfilm, and more recently digitize, historical records.
The Monmouth County Archives officially opened to the public in August 1994, an event covered by Cynthia Scott for Monmouth Cablevision’s TV-34 News, a videotape of which is now in the Archives. In 1997, County Clerk M. Claire French announced that the public research area would be known as “The Jane Clayton Research Room.” County Clerk French enabled a significant expansion of the Archives’ storage capacity and the application of modern technology for records management. Since 2015, her successor, County Clerk Christine Giordano Hanlon, has continued to maintain and improve the Archives’ technological capabilities, products, and services.
Currently, the Archives contains more than 2,500 cubic feet of documents and more than 4,000 volumes. Each year, about one thousand individuals contact the Archives for documents or information. Its more than 150 web pages, including online searchable databases and digitized documents, get about 10,000 visits per month. But much work remains to be done. Archives staff, augmented by interns and volunteers, are continuously organizing, describing, indexing, digitizing, and preserving documents from the past to make them more accessible.
Saretzky, Gary D. “Brief History of the Monmouth County Archives and Records Center.” Exhibit catalog, Windows to the Past: Forty Documents and Photographs from the Monmouth County Archives. Manalapan, NJ: Monmouth County Archives, October 2012.