Katrina: Impact on Archives and Records

Breaking News

Reports to the NCH office suggest that Mississippi appears to be somewhat ahead of Louisiana in access to and recovery of records ­ largely because of the type of damage that occurred. Collections are being evacuated from coastal locations and architects and engineers have been assessing damage to Jefferson Davis’s home, Beauvoir; the good news is that the house appears restorable. There still remain some serious questions about the status of public records in Hancock and Jefferson counties.

In Louisiana and New Orleans in particular there are a variety of things to report: the Jean Lafite collections have been moved out of New Orleans and the University of New Orleans archives appears to be dry. Power has been restored to the Notarial Archives and most of the 19th and 20th century records there have now been removed. Wet books and some records have been sent to Chicago for vacuum freeze-drying and the rest of the records have been placed in climate controlled trucks and are awaiting storage space

In an effort to assist in the hurricane relief effort, the American Association for State and Local History (AASLH) has assembled two teams to visit Louisiana and Mississippi for the purpose of assessing the damage to historical resources and to rescue them. Working in cooperation with the American Institute for Conservation, the Southeast Museums Conference, the Louisiana Museums Association, and the Mississippi Museums Association, the AASLH hopes to be able to send follow-up teams to work with different museums and sites to help preserve the resources. It is important that this endeavor has all the help and financial support it needs to ensure that it is a success. Anyone who is interested in volunteering to be on a team can send their information to sawyer@aaslh.org.

The AASLH is looking for additional help as well. Anyone who has access to conservation supplies is encouraged to contact Richard Waterhouse, the director of the Southeast Museums Conference, at director@SEMCdirect.net. Individuals willing to contribute frequent flyer miles to help the teams get to the sites can e-mail Sharin Barkmeier at barkmeier@aaslh.org. Monetary contributions are also greatly appreciated. Donations can be made online at www.aaslh.org or checks can be sent in the mail to 1717 Church Street, Nashville, TN 37203.

Finally, the Society of Southwest Archivists (SSA) and the Society of American Archivists (SAA) have announced the creation of the SSA-SAA Emergency Disaster Assistance Grant Fund -- a fund established to address the stabilization and recovery needs of archival repositories that have been directly affected by Hurricane Katrina. Any repository that holds archival records or special collections and that is located in Hurricane Katrina-affected areas of Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, or Mississippi is eligible to apply for a grant. The repository need not be a member of SSA or SAA. Grant monies may be used for the direct recovery of damaged or at-risk archival materials; such services as freeze drying, storage, transportation of materials, and rental facilities; supplies, including acid-free boxes and folders, storage cartons, cleaning materials, plastic milk crates, and protective gear; and to defray the costs for volunteers or other laborers who assist with the recovery.

The SSA/SAA are also inviting colleagues to support the fund; to this end visit http://www.archivists.org/katrina/contribute.asp in order to make a donation; both the SAA and SSA have each contributed $5,000 in seed money to establish the fund. Contributions by fax (using a credit card) maybe made by calling (312) 347-1452 or via snail mail to: Society of American Archivists, Attn: EDA Grant Fund, 527 South Wells Street, Fifth Floor, Chicago, IL 60607.

Organizations in need of assistance may apply for an initial grant of up to $2,000, though additional requests may be considered if funds remain available. Approved grant payments may be made directly to a service provider, upon the grantee's request, if an itemized invoice is presented. Recipients will be asked to provide a financial accounting of expenditures made using the award within six months of receiving the funding. A short application form is available on the SAA website at http://www.archivists.org/katrina/apply.asp. Or, if organizations prefer, a a letter may be submitted containing the information listed below. Ideally, the letter should come from the head of an organization, but it may come from a primary contact. Please include contact information for both the head of the organization and the primary contact if these are different individuals. Send the letter to: SSA President Brenda Gunn, Assistant Director for Research and Collections, Center for American History, University of Texas at Austin, 1 University Station, D1100, Austin, TX 78712; 512-495-4385; 512-495-4542 (fax); bgunn@mail.utexas.edu. The letter of application should address the following: the mission of the repository; a brief description of archival collection(s); a description of damage to the affected collection(s) (which may include supporting photographs or digital images); how much funding is being requested; a brief description of how the funds will be used; what other sources of funding are available to the repository; and if selected, to whom the check should be made payable.

A review panel comprising four SSA former presidents and the immediate past treasurer, along with one member of the SAA Council, will review applications and select the grant recipients. The committee will score proposals based on the application criteria. The Society of American Archivists is responsible for financial administration of the fund.

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