[Color photograph of Search Room at State Archives] As the historical agency for Maryland, the State Archives is the central depository for government records of permanent value. Records date from the founding of the Maryland colony in 1634 through the 1990s. They include colonial and State executive, legislative and judicial records; county probate, land and court records; business records; publications and reports of the State, county and municipal governments; records of religious bodies; and special collections of maps, newspapers, photographs, and private papers.

A view of Search Room, State Archives, Annapolis, Maryland, December 1999. Photo by Hillary Thomas.

Origins of the State Archives trace to the State's tercentenary celebrations in 1934. As the 300th anniversary of Maryland's founding approached, the Maryland Tercentenary Commission made a modern, centralized archives a key feature of the State commemoration. A "Memorial Hall of Records" was proposed as early as 1928, and in 1931 the General Assembly appropriated funds to erect an archives building in Annapolis. Construction began in 1934, and the first Hall of Records, located one block north of the State House, opened to the public in 1935. There, the records remained until 1986 when the State Archives moved to the new Hall of Records on Rowe Boulevard across from the Robert C. Murphy Courts of Appeal Building.

With the creation of the Hall of Records Commission, the General Assembly provided for the management of the public records and for the collection, custody, and preservation of the official records, documents, and publications of the State (Chapter 18, Acts of 1935). Formed in 1935, the Hall of Records was an independent agency of State government and remained so until its incorporation into the Department of General Services in 1970 (Chapter 97, Acts of 1970). In 1984, the Hall of Records reformed as the State Archives, an independent agency within the office of the Governor (Chapter 286, Acts of 1984). The 1984 law defined an advisory role for the Hall of Records Commission and placed the Commission on Artistic Property under the State Archives (Code State Government Article, secs. 2-1513(b), 3-404(b), 7-213(a), 9-1001 through 9-1027, 10-604 through 10-608, 10-631 through 10-634, 10-637 through 10-642, 10-701, 10-702).

The State Archives produces guides to records, finding aids, historical monographs, essays, and directories. Every two years, the State Archives compiles, edits, publishes, and distributes the Maryland Manual: A Guide to Maryland Government and daily updates the Maryland Manual On-Line. In addition, the State Archives prepares, edits, and publishes volumes of the new series of the Archives of Maryland, including the Archives of Maryland On-Line. Examples of publications currently available are:

Within the State Archives are seven main units: Acquisition and Conservation; Appraisal and Description; Artistic Property and Public Outreach; Government Information Services; Information Systems Management; Reference Services; and Special Collections. The State Archives also has a Land Patents section and is aided by the Hall of Records Commission.

Created in 1935, the Hall of Records Commission is an advisory body to the State Archives (Chapter 18, Acts of 1935). The Commission reviews and comments upon policies of the Archives that concern proposed budgets, publications, and public access to records.

The Commission is composed of eleven members. Nine serve ex officio. The Chief Judge of the Court of Appeals serves as chair (Code State Government Article, secs. 9-1001 through 9-1006).

In 1969, the Commission on Artistic Property was formed (Chapter 111, Acts of 1969). It was incorporated into the State Archives in 1984 (Chapter 286, Acts of 1984).

The Commission is the official custodian of all valuable paintings and other decorative arts owned by or loaned to the State (except those located in a State room of Government House). The Commission provides for the acquisition, location, proper care, custody, restoration, display, and preservation of these paintings and decorative arts. Every person, agency, or organization desiring to acquire a painting or other decorative art work for display in a State building or premises (except in a room of Government House) must secure from the Commission both prior approval and final acceptance of the painting or decorative art work. In such instances, the Commission considers the competence of the artist, the proposed location, and the quality, historical significance, and appropriateness of the work.

With the approval of the Governor and the State Archivist, the Commission may receive and accept gifts and loans of paintings and decorative art works. With the approval of the Governor, the State Archivist may accept gifts of money for the Commission from any source, public or private, and thereafter administer and expend the funds according to the conditions and terms of the gift. In 1996, the Commission, on behalf of the State, accepted the deposit of the art collection of the Peabody Institute.

The Commission consists of fifteen members. Eight are appointed by the State Archivist with the approval of the Governor. Seven serve ex officio. With the Governor's approval, the State Archivist names the chair (Code State Government Article, secs. 9-1016 through 9-1023).


In May 1999, Acquisition and Conservation formed from Appraisal and Preservation when appraisal functions were assigned to Appraisal and Description.

State, county and municipal government agencies in Maryland may offer the State Archives all files, documents, and records not in current use. Acquisition and Conservation supervises the transfer, storage, and retrieval of those government records deemed to be permanently valuable.

State Government Records. The records of all State agencies, boards, and commissions that are abolished or that otherwise conclude their work must be transferred to the custody of the State Archives. By law, State agencies have their records placed on retention and disposal schedules. No public records can be destroyed without scheduling and the prior approval of the State Archives.

The State Archives shares responsibility with the Division of Vital Records of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene for preservation of and access to vital records information (Code State Government Article, sec. 9-1015).

County and Municipal Government Records. All records that are in the courthouses of the State and that were created prior to April 28, 1788 (when Maryland ratified the U.S. Constitution) must be deposited at the State Archives. All current deeds, mortgages, and releases recorded in the courthouses of the State are microfilmed and preserved at the State Archives for security purposes. Limited facilities are available for the filming of records of State agencies. The State Archives also serves as the official depository for subdivision and condominium plats.

Rules and regulations promulgated in the Code of Maryland Regulations give the State Archives a role in the establishment of archives in local jurisdictions (COMAR 14.18.03).

Conservation Laboratory. The Conservation Laboratory preserves the physical integrity of archives in many forms, including manuscript papers and record books, microfilm, microfiche, photographs, published books, government publications, maps, newspapers, and electronic files. The Conservation Lab monitors environmental conditions in temperature- and humidity-controlled storage areas. Where appropriate, conservation measures are used. These include deacidification of paper, repair and restoration, mylar encapsulation, phase boxing, and archival bookbinding.

Preservation and Access. The State Archives preserves information with microfilm and digital imaging to expand access to historical documents. Sophisticated computer-scanning technology and microfilm produced to national preservation standards preserve images of original materials. These procedures help individuals who are not able to use originals at the Archives, and they preserve the information value of fragile manuscripts, maps, newspapers, and photographs.

Preservation Outreach. The State Archives participated in the work of the Task Force to Initiate Preservation Planning in Maryland and has assumed a leading position in promoting preservation to organizations and individuals across the State. The State Archives was designated by the Task Force to coordinate public information, workshops, and low-cost conservation services. The goal is to ensure preservation of significant collections of books and documents in Maryland libraries, museums, historical societies, government offices, private organizations, and private homes. At the State Archives, conservation staff conducts preservation workshops each spring.

Geographic records useful to planners, surveyors, title professionals, and others concerned with land use in Maryland are maintained by the State Archives. These materials include land records, surveys, plats of subdivisions and condominiums, and other court records. Reproductions of original documents and microfilm of many records, as well as scanned images in a number of graphic formats are available as are finding aids to assist in the use of these records.

Survey Materials. Many retrospective collections of survey materials are accessible on microfilm. The State Archives offers a subscription service furnishing aperture cards of plats received from the courts on a weekly basis.

Land Records. The State Archives distributes microfilm of land records on a subscription basis as they are received from the courts. Retrospective collections of microfilm also may be obtained.

For geographic information services, the State Archives provides telephone reference from 8:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. In many instances, requests for information can be answered within 24 hours.

This office helps preserve and make accessible copies of records through the creation and duplication of microfiche, microfilm, photocopy, and photography. In this way, the office assists government agencies; promotes Maryland scholarship by aiding students, historians, and genealogists; provides evidential materials for legal matters; and supports State Archives exhibits and publications.

Services to Government Agencies. Microfilm and Photography preserves the records of State and county government agencies while providing those agencies with working copies. In many instances, the office processes and inspects microfilm from other agencies.

Services to the Public. Projection prints, photographs, slides, microfilm, and other forms of imaging of archival material may be ordered from Microfilm and Photography. Through this office, microfilm of records is prepared and made available for interlibrary loans.

Preservation Microfilming. Records are microfilmed to archival standards that allow for the best resolution and density. These standards are defined by the American National Standard Institute (ANSI). Duplicates are provided on diazo and vesicular film. Other media, such as aperture cards, also are available.

Electronic Imaging. Record materials are scanned to convert images into electronic form. By this process, a document can be reproduced in many formats.


Artistic Property and Public Outreach originated as Education, Outreach, and Artistic Property, and received its present name in May 1999. This office is responsible for Artistic Property, Exhibits, and Internships. This office also provides support for the State House Trust and the Government House Trust.

The State Archives creates historical exhibits. Currently showing in the new Hall of Records Building are "Charting the Chesapeake, 1590-1990," and "Providence Plantation, Anne Arundel County's First Settlement." At the State House are exhibits relating to the history of the State House; Annapolis, the Capital; and Maryland and the U.S. Constitution. Traveling exhibits include "Colonial Encounters in the Chesapeake: The Natural World of Native Americans, Europeans, and Africans, 1585-1800."

Each summer, internships are offered for college students to learn archival and historical methods at the State Archives. Work/study programs also are available.


Organized in 1986, Government Information Services assists the citizens of Maryland and their agencies of government with current information, continuously updated. This office is responsible for the Maryland Manual; the Maryland Manual On-Line government information available from the website of the State Archives; and Government Publications and the Library.

Government Publications. Publications and reports of State government agencies date to the early 19th century. They, with the publications and reports of county and municipal governments, have been collected by the State Archives since 1947 (Chapter 651, Acts of 1947). The State Archives also is an official depository for county charters, codes, and laws (Code 1957, Art. 25, sec. 32A; Art. 25A, secs. 3B(3), 7(b); Art. 25B, secs. 7(b)(3), 12(b)). Municipal charter amendments and annexations, after publication, are deposited annually with the State Archives by the Department of Legislative Reference (Code 1957, Art. 23A, sec. 17C).

Library. Organized in 1940, the Library is a reference source for works that supplement the holdings of the State Archives. These include published records and sources on Maryland history, government, biography, geography, and natural resources; county, city and town histories; regional studies; Chesapeake Bay; research guides; genealogies; and archives administration, conservation, and preservation. The Library of the Department of Natural Resources transferred to the State Archives in June 1987. It includes materials collected since 1942 on Maryland natural resources, wildlife, fisheries, forestry, water resources, and the environment.

Published by the State Archives, the Maryland Manual and the Maryland Manual On-Line describe Maryland State, county and municipal government (Code State Government Article, secs. 9-1026, 9-1027). The Maryland Manual has been published in print since 1896. The Maryland Manual On-Line has been accessible on the Internet since December 1996.

The Maryland Manual On-Line is a continuously updated guide to Maryland government. It presents an overview of the organizational structure and staffing of the executive, legislative and judicial branches of Maryland government. It shows agency budgets and organizational charts, lists mandated reports, and provides the origin, historical evolution, and functions of government agencies.

Biographies of government officials appear in the Maryland Manual On-Line. These include legislators, constitutional officers, department secretaries, judges, and Maryland's Congressional delegation. The Manual also gives information on local government (county and municipal), as well as intercounty, interstate and federal agencies. In addition, the Manual contains the State budget, the Constitution of Maryland, and election returns. The Maryland at a Glance section offers condensed data on many Maryland subjects, State symbols, Maryland historical chronology, and Maryland government.


Information Systems Management began in 1989 as Computer Services and reorganized under its current name in 1997. This office oversees electronic archives, programming and computer services, and web management for the State Archives. The office also maintains Maryland Electronic Capital and assists other government agencies in designing and updating their homepages for the web.

At its September 1998 meeting, the Hall of Records Commission resolved that a program of Electronic Archives be created within the State Archives. The program will coordinate and manage the development of a permanent archives of electronic records.

As part of the Governor's technology initiative, the Maryland Electronic Capital is the homepage for the State of Maryland. It started in the fall of 1995.


Records are made accessible to the public and government agencies through the search room, by mail or telephone, and through electronic media. Open Tuesday through Saturday, the search room is staffed by professional archivists to assist patrons. Electronic, telephonic and mail reference services are available Monday through Friday. In addition, electronic services and information (including comprehensive catalogues of the Archives' holdings) are accessible through the State Archives' homepage on the web.

Records are used for legal documentation, historical research, land title searches, geographical information, vital record research, and genealogy. The Archives offers limited research services by its staff. Copies of records can be produced (for a fee) on paper as photographs, or as digital image files. Self-service copying from microfilm also is available for many records. Most records on microforms may be purchased or borrowed through interlibrary loan.

An electronic reference source issued by the State Archives is Documents for the Classroom. For the use of teachers, students, scholars, and the general public, Documents for the Classroom are digital facsimilies of selected original documents, secondary sources, and multi-media presentations. These electronic document packets use Maryland history to illustrate national trends. They cover elements of Maryland and American history from colonization to the modern era relating to political development, cultural diversity, and interdisciplinary approaches to understanding the past.


The State Archives is authorized to collect public and private records and other information relating to the history of the Province and State of Maryland from the earliest times. At the discretion of the State Archivist, the State Archives also is authorized to acquire collections of private records as permanent gifts (Code State Government Article, sec. 9-1010).

Special Collections started in 1935 as the Gift Collection and reorganized under its present name in 1987. Special Collections supervises the care, preservation, accessioning, and description of private records. Usually, they are given to the State Archives by private donors and generally consist of personal letters, diaries, photographs, maps, church records, architectural plans, and other manuscript documents. Maps, for example, date from 1565 to the present. They serve as an important resource for scientists, historians, and citizens interested in the Chesapeake watershed. Photographs illustrate a cross section of Maryland life and culture, including agriculture, architecture, family life, government, nautical and naval affairs, recreation, and sports. In addition, the State Archives has microfilmed records of nearly 300 churches of various denominations, and more than 250 newspapers from across the State.

With the exception of collections of fine arts, the Director, in conjunction with the State Archivist, reviews offers of materials as gifts to Special Collections. Offers of gifts of fine arts are reviewed by the Curator of Artistic Property and the State Archivist. Materials are accepted on the basis of their relevance to the holdings of the State Archives, their condition, and the need to provide for their proper storage and care.

While collections generally are offered as gifts to the State Archives, occasionally materials are accepted on deposit. The decision to accept a collection of original materials as a deposit is made by the Director in conjunction with the State Archivist based upon the relevance of the collection to the holdings of the State Archives, its condition, and the historical value of the collection. A collection may be placed on deposit if its contents are to be photographed or microfilmed as a reference collection at the Archives and the original materials returned to the owner.

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