The State of Alaska Bureau of Vital Statistics, (BVS ), is responsible for maintaining a large secured vault in Juneau which contains approximately 1 million certificates of birth, death, marriage and divorce. The principal duty of BVS is to protect these vital records for perpetuity, and to provide legal copies of certificates to the public, upon request.
Preparing a copy of a certificate involves several staff and takes time, with a search that involves entering the vault, and a book-by-book, page-by-page physical search. Once a certificate is located, removed from the archives shelves, removed from inside its book, it is photocopied onto legal bond paper to make the valid certificate copy. Then, the certificate and book are returned to the vault, and the requesting party will soon receive a new printed certificate.
This process takes place daily for every certificate reproduction request; the same process that has been followed for many decades. It functions well, but there are costs and drawbacks. First, there is the labor involved with the searching, handling, copying, and mailing, etc. Then there is the natural physical degradation that occurs to certificates. Repeated handling, exposure to light, and several other factors all contribute to the natural aging of the paper certificates and the shortening of their lives. Some are already 147 years old and quite frail. And these certificates are supposed to be preserved forever.
Because of Applied Microsystems’ (AMI) skills in document management and scanning, AMI was retained to conduct an assessment of the vault's contents and perform a highly detailed pilot study, which involved digital scanning, image enhancement, and the indexing of a cross section of 5,000 documents. This informative study led to a large scale certificate scanning project, lasting seven months, and capturing nearly half a million certificates. During this process, certificates with poor images were digitally enhanced using brightness and contrast controls, which improved their image quality for both on-screen viewing and for any future certificate reproduction.
The project was completed several months early and within budget. Some additional services were also provided, such as the creation of a collection of DVDs containing all these certificates.
The large volume of documents was indeed challenging, but AMI was ready for the job, utilizing a combination of highly efficient computer, scanner, and software tools, along with their business and IT skills. The project was completed early, with superior results. Today, with the majority of the vault now available in digital form, BVS will be able to print older certificates with improved image quality. After BVS installs their new planned records management system, it will be possible to print certificates from any BVS service desk in the State, within seconds of receiving a customer request.
This project’s success will lead to reductions in labor costs, less degradation of certificates, and it will yield improvements to customer service, achieving what was once just an ideal – the ‘while-u-wait’ preparation of certificates.