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Vital state land records now permanently preserved

By Staff | Nov 24, 2016

Department of Land and Natural Resources Chair Suzanne Case (right) checks in on the microfilm digitization. PHOTO BY HAWAII DLNR.

HONOLULU – The state Bureau of Conveyances, one of the divisions of the Department of Land and Natural Resources, is now in the second phase of a four-phase project to convert more than 170 years of vital state records into permanent, digital format.

The Hawaii Bureau of Conveyances is the only single statewide recording office in the country. It examines, records and indexes more than 344,000 land and property documents and maps each year, and it issues Land Court Certificates of Title and certifies copies of matters of record.

On a daily basis, the Bureau of Conveyances inputs 1,100-1,500 documents, and its documents date back to 1845.

Leslie Kobata, the acting Bureau of Conveyances registrar, explained, “Our conversion of documents to digital started with 35 million microfilm images. The microfilms are the original back-ups to the 5,500 reference books that date back to the mid-1800s. The second phase of the digital conversion was the scanning of each of those books, and the number of pages is staggering: an estimated 3.3 million- plus. The goal is to have all of these important historical and legal documents properly preserved and in a format that is easily accessible by anybody.”

The Bureau of Conveyances hired U.S. Imaging, a Michigan-based company, and for the first two phases has spent approximately $1.35 million on the project.

Kobata added, “The importance of the partnership with them is that we’re working with a company that does this type of work solely across the country. U.S. Imaging has many years of experience and completed projects under its belt, and when they began work here in Hawaii, some of the practices and innovations that they’ve adopted and applied from that experience actually saved the state some money.”

DLNR Chair Suzanne Case commented, “The upcoming phase three of this project will be to make sure all the scanned images are enhanced and in a form and format best possible for reproduction and access. At this point they can be viewed digitally at the Bureau of Conveyances.

“Phase four will be to make all of the scanned documents accessible to anyone with a computer. While the Bureau of Conveyances will maintain all of the historic reference books and microfilm, this digitization project ensures the preservation of some of Hawaii’s most important and vital historical records.”