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November 3, 2020 - 11:40am

Genesee County History Department playing catch-up thanks to COVID-19 shutdown

posted by Mike Pettinella in news, Genesee County History Department.

It’s safe to say that Michael Eula wishes that COVID-19 was “history.”

Eula, the Genesee County historian since 2014, said on Monday that “catching up from the closure” of the county’s History Department for more than two months due to the coronavirus will be his biggest challenge heading into 2021.

The office, located at County Building II on West Main Street Road, closed on April 22 and reopened in late June.

“The furlough seriously impacted the productivity of the department on both the records (management) side and the history side,” Eula said during a report given to the Genesee County Legislature’s Human Services Committee at the Old County Courthouse.  

While the department was able to meet all of its information requests, primarily through email and telephone, the number of volunteer hours “declined dramatically this year,” he said. “All in all, we did as well as we could expect.”

Actually, the county research library assisted about 300 people interested in local history, Eula said, generating about $980 in revenue in 2020. He also reported that volunteers donated about 470 hours, despite the interruption in service.

“These volunteers contribute enormously to the work of the History Department, which only has two full-time members (Eula, who doubles as the Records Management officer, and Judy Stiles, research assistant) and one part-time member who works in the Records Center,” Eula reported. “In conjunction with the full-time staff, volunteers assist with the indexing of records, the filing of historical documents, and the processing and storage of those primary historical documents.”

Eula said the department made 19 presentations (some via Zoom) on local history and conducted tours and responded to 279 information requests. He spoke on local history on four occasions to a total of 450 attendees, again utilizing Zoom technology.

As far as the Records Center is concerned, Eula said 181 cubic feet of obsolete records were removed and shredded, while 392 cubic feet of inactive records from county departments were transferred.

The Records Management program responded to 143 requests for records, and the Microfilm Lab produced 41 rolls of film for county departments, he reported.  Still, shelf space is not a problem, he said, as the department has four to five years of available shelf space.

Eula, who has a Ph.D., also has written a piece for the New York State Bar Association, Flexible Tradition: The History of the Courts in Genesee County, New York."

He is an honors graduate of Rutgers University, California State University, University of California and the Regent University School of Law. Along with more than 11 years of military service, he served as an administrative law judge in Riverside County, Calif., for 13 years. He is a Professor Emeritus of History at El Camino College in California.

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