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Polly Rosenbaum Archives – NECA/IBEW Team
Preparing for the future is something that’s on the minds of nearly everyone who works for state or local government across the country. But, preserving the past is just as important as preparing for the future.

State constitutions, archival papers, historical pictures – all of these things are vital to the history of any state. Without them, history is all but forgotten.

Arizona had a problem with their important documents for more than 10 years. Many fell into disrepair, and others were lost or stolen. Preservation and protection became priority No. 1 and they teamed up with the NECA-IBEW team to do just that. Here with the story is Dominic Giarratano.

Polly Rosenbaum Archive project was a specialized job that took specialized skills. Just a stone’s throw from the state capitol, they had a need for climate control systems, HVAC and specialty electrical systems like security systems and lighting.

They hired NECA and the IBEW because this wasn’t a job that could be left to chance. They hired us because they knew they couldn’t afford to not have us.

Let’s open the vault and go inside the Polly Rosenbaum Archives.

In life, nothing beats the original. We live in a world where duplication is the norm – cars, copy machines, fast food.

But for some things, though, a copy won’t do. Some things have to be the original. The state of Arizona’s archives knows this, and it’s something they work toward every day, keeping their state’s important historical documents preserved for coming generations.

Dr. Melanie Sturgeon, State Archivist, Director, History and Archives Division, State of Arizona
“We’ve got thousands and thousands of photographs, we’ve got about 140,000 maps, we’ve got electronic records, and we’ve got just about everything you can imagine. The government archives are important to citizens because they document their rights; they cover legal issues in the state, policy issues, just all sorts of things that help the ordinary citizen.”
See, the state had a problem – their old documents, the important lifeblood of their democracy, was becoming old and worn. They needed to preserve them, and they needed it as soon as possible.

The archives were stored in the State Capitol, without climate controls and without humidity controls. That wouldn’t do any longer. But it was tough even getting this project off the ground.

Dr. Melanie Sturgeon, State Archivist, Director, History and Archives Division, State of Arizona
“It has a very checkered past. It actually was approved in the 1980s and then because of the politics, it sort of fell by the wayside. So they’ve actually been talking about this since the ‘60s. Finally, they got really serious and started about 1999.”

Lots of people head to the Arizona desert for the dry air, the lack of humidity, the warm weather. But all those things that can be so good for health can be killers to important documents and artifacts. When they built their new state archive building – The Polly Rosenbaum archives – they had to do it right the first time.

Jim Neal, Conservator, Arizona State Archives
“It’s absolutely essential that we maintain a certain climate and environment for the records. And that entails temperature and relative humidity and also air pollutants are a serious matter. So if we didn’t have electricity, we simply wouldn’t be able to accommodate the records and the best environment possible.”

Dr. Melanie Sturgeon, State Archivist, Director, History and Archives Division, State of Arizona
“So this building is 55 degrees and 30-35 percent humidity which is the optimal storage conditions for things to last, and these need to last for thousands of years, so that’s why they’re in here. Once they disappear, that’s it.”

When they needed to preserve and protect original documents, they called on the NECA-IBEW team.
The work that Commonwealth Electric, and their IBEW apprentices and journeymen did, extended to the entire property – from lighting, to HVAC – from security systems to fire alarm and everything in between.

Like every job, there were challenges, and adaptations that needed to be made.

Joe Amavisca, General Foreman, Commonwealth Electric
“It’s basically a concrete building, the ceilings are concrete, the roof is concrete, it’s like a big safe, an ice box safe, basically.”

Ryan Shaw, Journeyman, IBEW 640
“I know in the major rooms, the rooms where they have all the documents, we did months and months of lights. Almost 8 months straight of hanging strip lights all the way up and down the rooms.”

Joe Amavisca, General Foreman, Commonwealth Electric
“Inside those rooms you have motion sensors for smoke, or whatever in case something catches on fire. You’ve got suppression systems.”

Devin Hunsaker, Project Manager, Mortensen Construction
“The building essentially is a vault for these old documents. Against the weather, against these deleterious vermin, so it’s very important that it’s built clean and it’s built with that end in mind.”

The building was designed with the archives in mind, so there was a place for everything. These electricians had no problem with that, and were able to tailor their wire runs to the individual unique circumstances.

Jim Neal, Conservator, Arizona State Archives
“Security is essential. It’s one of the main purposes we do in keeping the records in one place. Safe, both in their storage areas, but also when they’re used in a public space.”

Anthony Middaugh, 5th Year Apprentice, IBEW 640
“There’s a whole security room that deals with nothing but the cameras and the door locks and things that they have in there with keyless entries and all that sort of stuff.”

Dr. Melanie Sturgeon, State Archivist, Director, History and Archives Division, State of Arizona
“This building is incredibly sophisticated and without the work of the electricians, we would just have a shell with lots of wonderful equipment that didn’t do anything.”

Devin Hunsaker, Project Manager, Mortensen Construction
“Commonwealth did a great job. They obviously have a great relationship with the local, and it manifests itself in that it doesn’t manifest itself ever. Their relationship is seamless.”

Anthony Middaugh, 5th Year Apprentice, IBEW 640
“It’s really kind of important for us to work on this project. A lot of my family is from here. And all that kind of thing, so it was really kind of neat.”

It shows if you’re a curator, a city manager or a government official and you need a secure building with other pressing considerations – this is just what we do.

Protecting and maintaining historical documents is a 24 hour a day job, for sure.

When it comes down to it, who’s going to partner with you to do it right? Who’s going to stand behind their work? NECA and the IBEW.