Front page > Gregory Sanford
Meet Your State Archivist
When Gregory Sanford became Editor of State Papers in 1982, Vermont had no formal State Archives. The State Papers Division followed an older model of annotating and publishing 18th Century government records. The State's archival records were stored haphazardly in a basement vault in the Pavilion in Montpelier's flood plain. There was almost no intellectual control over the records. Records management was handled in a similarly ad hoc fashion, through the Public Records Division of Buildings and General Services. The two units, despite their similar goals, did not work together.
Gregory spent the next thirty years shepherding the preservation and management of state records into the 21st century. By the time the State Archives was created by statute in 2003, Vermont was the last state in the nation with a formal state archives, over a hundred years after the first state archives was created in Alabama. A few years later, the Records Analysis unit was formed, and records management began to be handled systematically at a state-wide level for the first time in Vermont.
Gregory was first introduced to the world of archives through the George D. Aiken Oral History Project at Special Collections at the University of Vermont and then through the Institute Archives at MIT. Starting modestly, Gregory and the tiny staff of the early incarnations of the Vermont State Archives arranged, described, and publicized the records already in the Archives. Almost from the beginning Gregory sought to tie the definition of archival records as records of continuing value to the idea that there are continuing issues that Vermonters and their government have always grappled with. These include taxation, economic development, the environment, public health, and public safety. Demonstrating that archival records could provide context to current public dialogues and decision making helped create awareness of the value of archival records. Using that greater appreciation the archives staff expanded their efforts to show how effective records and information management was crucial to government accountability and to realizing the value of records as a business asset to government and citizen alike.
Awareness of the value of record and information management encouraged a partnership among Secretary of State Deborah Markowitz, the legislature, and Governor Jim Douglas that led to the creation of VSARA. The combined archival and records management was Gregory's original vision. "Though my first love was, and remains, archival management," Gregory recently said, "I am incredibly excited by the work of the record analysts and the partnerships they are forging. Key to it all is the work of the agency record officers who are quietly achieving a more effective and transparent government. For that I thank them."
Gregory has always been the Vermont State Archives' biggest advocate, and the most prominent voice speaking out for the management and preservation of government records in Vermont. He's a constant presence at the Statehouse during the legislative session, heavily involved with professional organizations on a regional and national level, and a regular voice in local media on matters relating to records and the history of Vermont. Gregory lives in Marshfield with, as he puts it, "the woman who tolerates me," Ondis Eardensohn.
Perhaps the best way to get to know more about Gregory is through his monthly column, Voice from the Vault. An always fascinating mix of history and philosophy, recent issues of Voice include "A Flood of Thoughts," "Records Management and Zombies," and "The Sex Life of Dragonflies and Government Recordkeeping."