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Keeping the Lights On

November 9, 2012

 “These are the people who helped keep the lights on. They should not be forgotten,” Robert Kirby said.

Kirby was speaking to a group of archivists at a workshop for regional repositories held November 1, 2012,  at the Utah State Archives.  His topic was how records keepers can serve researchers in accessing  records in various collections throughout the state.  Kirby, a former Springville, Utah, police officer and a long-time humor columnist for The Salt Lake Tribune, is a serious man when he speaks about his research.

His book, END OF WATCH: Utah’s Murdered Police Officers, 1853-2003 (University of Utah Press, February, 2004), is the product of many hours, many years of research. He is devastated, he said, when he finds a fallen officer that was missed in his research. “They should all be accounted for and remembered.”

Robert Kirby and the Utah State Archives have collaborated on a project targeted at saving Utah’s historic law enforcement records. The project began in October 2011 at an Archives Month event at which former and current law enforcement officials were encouraged to visit the Utah State Archives and learn about methods and opportunities for the long-term preservation of their unique and important history.

Following that Archives Month event the Utah Highway Patrol, the Division of Wildlife Resources, the Board of Pardons, and the Peace Officers Standards and Training (P.O.S.T.) Academy have all participated in preserving their history. The agencies have worked to identify historic records held within their offices and to transfer materials that document each agency’s history into the permanent collection of the Utah State Archives. A collection of the P.O.S.T. Academy graduating class photos has been digitized and will soon be available to search online!

On November 6, 2012, another event was held at the State Archives. It included important men and women volunteering their time and working to make sure law enforcement officers are not forgotten. A large array of photographs of law enforcement officers and events was spread out on tables in the Archives conference room.  Former and current Utah Highway Patrol troopers went to work with published year books and their collective memories to identify the people represented in the photographs. Without this kind of  item-by-item identification a  photograph collection is not usable. Jim Kichas, an Archives staff member, worked with Kirby to arrange the event. Over fifteen law enforcement veterans volunteered their time to the effort. In addition to organizing this event,  Kichas represented the Utah State Archives at the annual Utah Sheriff’s Convention held in September 2012 in St. George. The important work of preserving history is everyone’s business.

This article  is a shameless promotional advertisement  for the volunteer program at the Utah State Archives. If you have four hours a week to spare and want to be involved, call or email:

Susan Mumford, 801-531-3861, smumford@utah.gov

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