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History of NYALGRO

A Short Retrospective
Robert W. Arnold III
Hunter, NY - June 11,2007


New York was among the first states to enter the Union and one of the last to establish a state archives, in 1976. Before that, the State Library and other agencies had exercised many of the tasks now assigned to the New York State Archives, collecting historical records, including some sporadically and poorly documented transfers from local governments. The great Capitol Fire of 1911 destroyed unknown quantities of such records and gave rise to what I call the "Cask of Amontillado" school of state oversight for local government records, lots of patronizing advice about fire protection, indexing and filing and vaults.


By the 1980s, centuries’ accumulation of statutes, regulations, customs, civil procedure and folklore had created  an  impenetrable  morass  of  obsolete,  obsolescent,  weak,  contradictory, vague, inconsistent and clumsy practices regarding local government records. No one knew what to do, least of all the State Archives. There was little help available anywhere.


There were no Regional Advisory Officers. There were few people in the State Archives who understood anything at all about local governments and their records. There were no grants beyond a piddling few dollars from the State Library’s discretionary grants program and the NHPRC.  Records Retention and Disposition Schedules were printed in miniscule type – the State Archives alone was responsible for the boom in bifocals during the 1980s – and were minutely detailed, hard to use and in fact were mainly not used. There was no training program. There were no advisory publications to speak of and those that existed were badly out of date. There was no Local Government Records Advisory Council to advise the Commissioner of Education.


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Former Award & Scholarship Recipients


This award is given to a NYALGRO member who demonstrates outstanding service to his/her local government and New York's records management community. It is named after a clerk who worked in the Albany County Clerk's Office in the latter part of the nineteenth century. Wheeler B. Melius gained his notoriety when on February 10, 1880 he was the first to reach the burning Albany City Hall which housed an immense quantity of public archives and legal records. Melius, once on site, began to pass precious volumes of land records through a narrow window to volunteers outside. Single-handedly, Melius passed 700 volumes - nearly six tons of charred and often soaking, outsized books - out of the building.

To see a complete list of Wheeler B. Melius Award recipients click here.


The Guy D. Paquin Award is presented to an individual or organization to honor noteworthy achievements and exceptional support and involvements in the records management profession. As of 2021, the awards have been combined in to 1 award.

To see a list of the Guy D. Paquin Award recipients click here.


NYALGRO presents its Robert Arnold Award for Distinguished Service to an individual who has demonstrated characteristics similar to that of a Regional Advisory Officer in lending expertise and assistance to other local officials in the establishment of furtherance of records management programs. As of 2021, the awards have been combined in to 1 award.

To see a list of the Robert Arnold Award for Distinguished Service recipients click here.


This annual scholarship was established in honor of Cheryl Steinbach who was the Town Clerk and RMO for the Town of Chautauqua, and past Treasurer and NYALGRO board member.  Cheryl's committment and dedication to records management issues provided a leadership example for all public servants, not just those involved in records management. NYALGRO awards at least two (2) scholarships each year toward the total cost of school registration and hotel accommodations.

To view list of past recipient click here.

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