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Wisconsin Historical Society

Guide or Instruction

Preservation Commission Record-Keeping

Chapter 5: Preservation Commission Operations, Page 3 of 6

Preservation Commission Record-Keeping | HPC Training | Wisconsin Historical Society

Keeping accurate and complete records is essential to effective commission operations. Meeting minutes are crucial administrative records that serve as evidence of the commission's deliberations and decisions.

Many commissions now record their meetings with either audio or video equipment. While this is a good practice and creates a more complete public record, a written record is still necessary. Written minutes continue to be the primary record and are referred to if the commission's decisions are ever called into question.

Contents of Meeting Minutes

Meeting minutes need to be prepared according to adopted policy and include the following elements:

  • Date
  • Identification of administrative body
  • Full address of meeting location
  • Names of members and staff in attendance
  • Existence of a quorum
  • Name of the chairperson
  • Corrections and adoption of previous meeting minutes
  • A clear statement on each separate item discussed or acted upon
  • Name of the person who prepared the minutes

Online Posting of Meeting Summaries

Commissions should consider posting summaries of their meetings on an official website, either that of the commission or of the local municipality. The internet has become a favored means of accessing information and is readily accessible to almost everyone through schools, local libraries, and home computers. Commissions should take advantage of this inexpensive tool to effectively reach and inform the public.

Posting summaries of each commission decision quickly and effectively disseminates information and educates citizenson historic preservation issues, which will help the commission project a positive public image. As in the meeting, commission decisions posted online should include clear explanations of the rationale behind each decision and the criteria applied.

Paper Files

It is also important for commissions to place its minutes and other documentation, such as maps of local historic districts, copies of publication notices, and letters to property owners, in adequate working files. Maintenance of such files in a designated location is important. Often commission offices are moved from one location to another, and files can be misplaced or even lost. 

Lost files can be detrimental to a commission if its actions are challenged and it does not have ready access to files that can support its decisions.