National Archives Offers Assistance to Gulf States
September 19, 2005—Archivist of the United
States Allen Weinstein announced today several initiatives to aid in the recovery
of original records in the states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana that
have been affected by Hurricane Katrina.
In making this announcement, the Archivist said: "The potential loss
of information that directly affects the lives of people in these states is
staggering. The loss of our collective memory of this region, 'identity loss'
in other words, is at stake. Property deeds; birth certificates; personal papers;
information documenting the rights and entitlements of citizens, such as social
security and veterans benefits, are all at risk. Records found in Federal,
state, local and cultural sites must be rescued.
As 'first preservers', the National Archives is committed to being a partner,
along with the major archival organizations, in helping assess, recover and
preserve these irreplaceable records. We are sending both financial and human
resources to aid in this disaster and will continue to offer assistance as
long as it is needed. Archives staff has already spent hundreds hours working
with Federal agencies and our partners in state and local government to scope
out this effort and begin to identify and recover records. In the coming days
and weeks, working with our partners in the states and the Federal agencies,
we are committed to spending thousands more."
Current initiatives include:
At the request of the Department of Health and Human Services, the National
Archives will provide a senior conservator to assist the State of Louisiana
Medical Examiner and the Orleans Parish Coroner in providing document recovery
advice and support.
The Archivist of the United States in his capacity as Chairman of the National
Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) has authorized emergency
grants of up to $25,000 from FY2005 grant funds to the State Archives in Louisiana,
Mississippi, and Alabama for disaster assessment and response activities identified
in consultation with their State Historical Records Advisory Boards.
NHPRC will consider additional grants as needed per affected state of up to
$100,000 from FY2006 when these funds are appropriated. The NHPRC also is working
closely with the leadership of the Council of State Archivists and the Society
of American Archivists to identify other funds and sources of support.
The National Archives is working with FEMA to identify avenues for the affected
states to quickly obtain emergency funds for recovery and preservation efforts
The National Archives is continuing dialogue with Federal and state officials
to assess their needs.
Initiatives already underway: The National Archives has:
- Aided the victims of this disaster - veterans and retired civil servants
from the Gulf Coast region - by providing expedited access to copies of their
veterans and civil service records so that they can establish or re-establish
their personal information and obtain relief benefits.
- Developed a web presence for Federal agencies and courts, state and local
governments, cultural institutions, and the general public which contains
recovery and preservation guidance and information. www.archives.gov
- Offered Federal agencies with offices in the affected regions advice and
assistance on records recovery issues, emergency disposal and other records
management issues through the National Archives headquarters and the Atlanta
and Fort Worth regional archives.
- Consulted with Federal agencies concerning classified national security
information that may be affected by the hurricane.
- Delegated authority to Federal agencies to destroy contaminated records
that constitute a menace to health, life, or property if those records have
a temporary disposition of 10 years or less and if the information from the
records is likely captured, at least in part, in other sources.
- Utilized National Archives professional preservation and records management
staff from across the nation, to provide advice and assistance in the region.
For further information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs Office