Looking for archived government records? They might be in the freezer.

The freezer in the Hawaii State Archives, that is.

Hawaii’s archives library collects and preserves state government records — dating from the monarchy all the way up to the most recent legislative session — and makes them accessible to the public.

These records come in all shapes and sizes: leather-bound books, maps, loose sheets of paper, artifacts, you name it.

But before they’re packed into filing cabinets, displayed on shelves or sorted into alphabetically arranged binders, they need to be fumigated.

And that’s where the freezer comes in.

The Archives is a two-story, banyan tree-shaded building that sits on the Iolani Palace grounds. The freezer, extending about six feet wide and three feet high, is tucked into one of the library’s back rooms.

Once they arrive from government offices, the records are placed in cardboard boxes that are then double-bagged and put in the freezer — all to get rid of insects, according to Gina Vergara-Bautista, head of the Archives’ Collections Management Section. They remain in this frosty box for two weeks.

The records currently on ice are documents from the lieutenant governor’s office, Vergara-Bautista said.

The Archives Experience

Civil Beat paid a visit to the Archives to look at some legislative documents from 1998. In particular, we wanted to review the reports detailing Cayetano’s role in a taxation measure that has come under fire in a new Pacific Resource Partnership commercial.

Archivists said that potentially relevant documents were located in several places: 5-inch-thick Senate and House books from the 1998 legislative session, folders containing the governor’s official and general correspondence regarding budget and taxation and a folder dedicated to the law, Act 157, that lowered taxes.

One of the folders was stuffed with a year’s-worth of letters from concerned citizens.

Another folder, it turned out, contained confidential information and was red-flagged as restricted from the public.

As we waited for records, we were told another folder may have to be thawed.

Thawed? What do you mean “thawed”?

Hence, the story of the mysterious freezer.

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