Fears for a unique history and culture

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With rescue operations in New Orleans focused on saving lives and restoring order in the hurricane battered city, little effort has been made so far to catalog the damage to the city’s considerable historic and cultural landmarks. With no official accounting yet available, the best those charged with assessing such things could do is to study satellite photos of the city and rely on eyewitness accounts and bloggers for their information.

The hurricane and subsequent flooding damaged historical landmarks and wiped away at least some of the precious remnants of Louisiana’s time under French rule. But officials say many of the buildings that make up one of the most culturally influential cities in America appear to have survived intact, leaving them hopeful that restoration would be possible.

“There has not been a concerted effort or assessment of the damage to historic and cultural sites that I know of,” says John Hildreth, chief of the southern region for the National Trust for Historic Preservation. “I have seen some reports but it is scattered sketchy information on particular institutions. It’s all just kind of sketchy right now. The human element is just the priority right now.”

The American Association of Museums, for instance, has compiled a detailed rundown for New Orleans and the nearby Gulf region on their website, listing individual cultural institutions and providing the best sourcing and information they can muster on the fate of their collections, staff and structures.

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