Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Double Disaster in New Orleans

As if the terrible Hurricane Katrina wasn't enough, the damage to New Orleans' archival heritage has been compounded by the authorities.

New Orleans Notorial Archives staff have been obstructed in their attempt to even survey damage let alone arrange for Munters Corporation, a Swedish document salvage firm, to freeze-dry their water-soaked archives. Attempts to reach the Civil District Courthouse on Poydras Street, where many of the city's real estate documents are housed, and the former Amoco building also on Poydras Street, which houses historic documents such as a letter from Jean Lafitte to Washington demanding payment for his expenditures during the Battle of New Orleans, were thwarted by troops.

Eddy Pokluda, head of national sales for Munters in Dallas, said the company tried to get one person in to make an assessment of the damage but was turned away, even though days earlier they had coordinated with New Orleans police to have an escort into the city (read more).

Brent Hightower of the Times-Picayune newspaper, the daily newspaper for the greater New Orleans area, has requested conservation materials for emergency conservation work read more.

Practical advice is being offered by Alabama Department of Archives & History

The Society of American Archivists has published Information about repositories in the areas affected by the hurricane and the American Library Association likewise click here.

The Village Voice offers further useful comment on damage to New Orleans' cultural heritage click here

Dr Alex Byrne, president of the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions observes that the main preoccupation now is the delay it will take to make a full assessment and tackle mould damage read more

In nearby Louisiana the State Library service has published a status report

We conclude this blog with the observation that the UK National Archives and Society of Archivists [sic] web sites do not refer to Hurricane Katrina and its effects on the cultural heritage of New Orleans. We can only hope plans are in place in the UK to handle similar natural disasters. We wonder what the new chief executive of the UK National Archives would do in similar circumstances and whether proposed UK archive legislation contains provisions for archivists to reach afflicted collections instead of being turned back by gun-toting members of the Territorial Army? Or our national archival organisations more concerned with singing their own praises?

We extend our sympathies to our American cousins as they rebuild their collections and await their return home.

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