TOWN OF ISLIP, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) — Every town has a story, and when you open the door of Islip’s Town Hall, you can walk into the community’s earliest chapters.

As CBS2’s Jenna DeAngelis reported, the Town of Islip has been collecting historic items for years. It just applied for a grant through the nonprofit Documentary Heritage and Preservation Services for New York to help preserve that history.

If chosen for the grant, a preservation survey would be free.

“These are things you can’t replace,” Town of Islip Supervisor Angie Carpenter said. “We applied for this grant, this nonprofit that will come in and survey how are materials are stored and give us a blueprint if you will for how we can do things better.”

The historic items collected by the town include birth records dating back to 1881 and early 19th Century school records. The oldest item in the collection is a royal patent from 1701.

“These documents allow us to touch the face of history,” Islip Town Historian George Munkenbeck said.

The documents also help residents better understand the town.

“These are resources,” Islip Town Clerk Olga Murray said. “People are coming in, they’re asking for these documents every day. We have legal issues that come up these documents tell the tales.”

“We’ve had a number of homeowners, in the last few weeks even, ask about the history of their house,” said Munkenbeck.

Munkenbeck showed CBS2 a letter written by the town supervisor in 1792, describing the Town of Islip.

“It also tells us something that we didn’t know, that all the houses were on the north side of what was known then as the South Country Road or South County Road and that road is now Montauk Highway or Main Street through most of Islip,” he said. “It helps us identify older homes because they will be on the north side of the street where they didn’t build on the south side until much later.”

The survey will help them learn how to best store, preserve and care for the documents so they can stand the test of time.

The town finds out mid-May if it will get the grant.

“The cost of preserving documents is very expensive and you don’t want to waste any resources,” Carpenter said. “So, getting a blueprint for how to do it appropriately, making sure we do everything right will help us maximize our resources.”

The town clerk said a long term goal is to digitize the documents and put them online to make it easier for people to see.

Items are available for the public to look at. Contact the town clerk for more information.

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