National Task Force on Emergency Response

See also: ARMA Members Participate in WTC Tragedy Task Force

SAA sent two high-level representatives to a meeting of the National Task Force on Emergency Response held September 18, 2001, in Washington, D.C. Maygene Daniels, past president of SAA and Tom Connors, SAA Council member, reported on the meeting, the purpose of which was to share information concerning the status of cultural institutions in the area of 9/11's attack. This Task Force is an excellent means of helping archives and cultural institutions rescue community heritage materials after devastation. Maygene is SAA's designated representative to the Task Force. It is through the active involvement of dedicated volunteers such as Maygene and Tom that SAA can contribute to healing the wounds of this tragedy.

Maygene reports:

Larry Reger, executive director of Heritage Preservation, opened the discussion by reminding the group that Jamie Lee Whitten, former FEMA director, observed that in a disaster, after people have health, safety, shelter, and food, they turn to the things that they care about - their personal and community cultural heritage. Reger also emphasized that recovery of cultural materials should not be an issue until human safety is assured and the area secured. Nonetheless, he pointed out that we are in the position to help when the correct time comes. The following goals were identified:

  • Gather information on collections affected by the disaster to help FEMA in its relief and recovery. The American Association of Museums already is gathering information about affected museums (somehow sharing information on its web site?) Jane Long of the Task Force will be a coordinating point for this information among all cultural institutions, and will work through John Ketchum of FEMA. Information on lost and endangered historical records will be an important component of this.
  • Be prepared to provide information to institutions on how to recover from the disaster:

    Government aid. A representative of the Small Business Administration explained that SBA is the government's emergency loan banker. Loans are available to private nonprofit organizations as well as to businesses. FEMA also provides relief, especially for individuals. The Task Force has prepared a booklet: Resources for Recovery: Post-Disaster Aid for Cultural Institutions, available on the Heritage Preservation web site. It is being updated now with new information.

    Eventually expertise, supplies, vacant space may be needed. Again the Task Force can coordinate information, but input from our community will be important.

  • Get information out to the general public concerning how to retrieve and clean personal photographs, papers, works of art. Information already is available (including the Task Force's "Recovery Wheel") It would be particularly helpful to have media coverage. The Task Force has prepared a press release.

In summary, the meeting was a useful early step in recovery and in identifying actions of our various organizations.

Tom Connors further reported that:

The organizations represented included the two Endowments (George Farr for NEH), NCC (Bruce Craig), AHA (Arnita Jones), ARL, CLIR (Abby Smith), Small Business Administration, GSA, NARA (Norvell Jones), American Institute for Conservation, Society for Historical Archaeology, President's Commission on Arts and Humanities, AAM, IMLS and a few others that I didn't catch. There were 23 people present.

The National Task Force on Emergency Response has produced a press release entitled "When the Dust Settles: Tips for Safely Cleaning Family Treasures." (In disasters, the problem is usually water or fire damage. In this case it's dust and soot damage.)

A numerical breakdown of cultural institutions in the "no go" area (below 14th Street) was given. In the affected area there are 42 museums, 57 archives and libraries and 245 outdoor sculptures.

The Small Business Administration will make loans and in some case grants available to private nonprofit groups for repair and rebuilding and also for restoration of collections.

NYU is providing space for resource groups to work out of.

Larry Reger suggested that 3 working groups be formed:

(1) an assessment of damage group,
(2) an information to cultural institutions group,
(3) an information to individuals group

Continuing communications will take place via an e-mail reflector of attendees.

Additional information about the Task Force may be found at or by calling 202-634-1422 / 888-388-6789.