Mat-Su Borough aims to digitize thousands of historical maps
Deep in the basement of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough building there’s a treasure trove of maps.
“Come check this out," said platting assistant VickiLee Fenster. “This is a 1922 Department of the Navy [map] for Chickaloon mine.”
The collection is in a fire-and-flood-proof room Fenster calls “The Dungeon.” There are thousands of maps and original blueprints, some dating back to the late 1800s, including plans from the 1930s for the Matanuska Colony project that brought 200 families to Palmer from the Midwest.
“What I find really interesting is that they were so detailed in getting everything exactly right for these colonists they even created a blue print for building an outhouse,” Fenster said.
The collection used to be a mess until the Mat-Su Borough’s cyber attack last year. With the computers down, Fenster found herself with time on her hands.
She said it took about six months to get everything organized chronologically.
“I think I’m pretty lucky. I get to see things most people don’t. That’s one of the goals I have is to share it and get it out there. It's been down here for a long time and no one knew it was here,” Fenster said.
She said, by law, the platting division must retain original copies to track ownership of the land and how it's been reconfigured over time.
“These are important clues to where we’re going, what we’ve been through and also help people in the future,” Fenster said.
She thinks of herself as a keeper of knowledge, a placeholder like the plans from the past. Fenster said she wants to make the maps available to the masses.
The problem is, digitizing isn’t in the budget.
“The borough doesn’t have that kind of money. We can save them and we have saved them. And we're still taking care of them," she said. "But there is so much here that could be shared. Looking for a volunteer.”
With a little outside help, she’s hoping to get the maps out of the drawers and online so everyone can see the origins of the Mat-Su.
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