Several weeks ago, I visited the Gonzales Archives to research some family history and spent some time reviewing documents which were available nowhere else. I also had the opportunity to look at some of the older documents, some going back to colonial times. It was a humbling experience to hold in my hand document almost 200 yards old with the signature of a man whose name I had only seen in history books. It was a rare privilege.
But my stay was much shorter than I would have liked due to the deplorable atmosphere. The air was stale and musty and the humidity oppressive. If it had that effect on me in the course of an hour or two, I can only imagine what effect it has on the irreplaceable docuemtns stored there permanently. I wonder that if I returned in a year or two they would still be legible, or will Green DeWitt’s signature be faded and covered with mold?
I spoke about this situation at a meeting of County Commissioners and the only response was that dehumidification equipment is being tried. This is absolutely only a stopgap measure and does nothing at all to solve the underlying problem. These records are the life blood of Gonzales. How can Gonzales let this happen? But the more important question is, “what can we do about it?” Surely this is as problem that deserves immediate attention, and action needs to be taken immediately and decisively. Even something as drastic as removal of critical documents to temporary climate-controlled conditions needs to be considered.
We make a big deal out of our “Come and Take It” celebration, but where is the spirt of Come and Take It when it comes to preserving the very documents that were written by the men who staked their lives on that principle? Someone in the county needs to step up and exhibit the leadership necessary to remedy this situation.