Taking care of all those documents can be tough. About half of them are stored in warehouses that archivists say are plagued by bugs, mold, bad lighting and inadequate temperature controls that make them unbearably hot in the summer and freezing cold in the winter.
One such warehouse in Anne Arundel County includes paintings and land records from the 1800s and items owned by William Donald Schaefer, who served a total of 32 years as mayor of Baltimore and as the state’s governor and then comptroller.
“It’s not as much about temperature as it is consistency,” said Kevin Swanson, director of the agency’s constituent and interagency services. He added that ideal conditions are about 65 degrees and 55 percent humidity.
“When you don’t have that, you’re going to have problems,” he said.
Archivists have had to stop accepting items because of the space crunch and instead encourage local governments to move toward keeping electronic records.
The policy backfired last year when heavy rains in Prince George’s County led to flooding that destroyed about 2,400 cubic feet of county records in Upper Marlboro. The State Archives would have accepted the records if it had the space, Mr. Baker said.
“I don’t really have an option,” he said. “Even if I could just magically snap my fingers and go out and rent another building, we don’t have the money to do that.”
Desperate for more space, archives officials have testified before Senate and House budget committees. They originally hoped for a new building - which Mr. Baker said could have cost as much as $25 million - but have moved to the less-expensive option of buying a used, “semidistressed” building.
The agency’s troubles are not limited to storage. State budget cuts have reduced the Archives’ finances andnearlyeliminated its art conservation budget.
One of the ways archivists have cut costs is by asking the state facilities and art galleries that host much of the state’s artistic property to pay for upkeep.
Mr. Swanson said the Maryland State Archives gets 15 percent to 20 percent of its funding from the state. The rest comes from fundraising, grants and money the agency earns as a printing service for businesses.
It also charges fees for the thousands of files it retrieves for residents each year.
State funding for the Archives has been left mostly to subcommittees on the Senate Budget and Taxation and House Appropriations committees.
Lawmakers are quick to say that the archives have tremendous value, but many say the state simply doesn’t have the money at a time when it has many infrastructure needs.
“You’ve got to handle the things that you’ve got to handle now and just wait and see what happens,” said Delegate Gail H. Bates, Howard Republican, who serves on the Appropriations public safety and administration subcommittee, which hears the Archives’ testimony each year. “As much as I think that it’s important to do something with the archives, it’s not really what I would call a basic need right now.”