An Open Letter to Louisiana Gov. Blanco Regarding Hurricane Katrina and Archival Records

September 9, 2005

Office of the Governor
Attn: Robert Mann, Communications Director
P.O. Box 94004
Baton Rouge, Louisiana 70804-9004

Dear Governor Blanco:

On behalf of the Society of American Archivists and its 4,200 members, I seek your assistance in helping to protect critically important records that have been damaged by Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath.

These records are essential to both preserving our history and to helping the individuals in affected areas reassemble the pieces of their lives. Without them, individuals may not be able to prove their identity, establish their claim to property, or demonstrate their credentials for employment. Without them, a major piece of our collective history is lost. Many critical records are housed in cultural institutions, and many reside in courthouses, parish recorders’ offices, and city offices.

An immediate response is critical to protect these records – and the rights and entitlements of citizens. Time already has been lost. Acting on behalf of the New Orleans Notarial Archives, Munters Corporation was initially refused access to the city but now has begun to remove these critical records. Others have not yet had a chance to inspect their collections.

We ask that you help individuals responsible for these records get immediate access to them to make an initial assessment of the conditions. Based on that information, they can make plans for salvaging these records as soon as conditions permit.

We certainly understand the many competing demands on limited resources and are also aware of the dire conditions in many parts of the affected areas. However, we cannot stress enough that protecting these records is essential to protecting the livelihood of people already ravaged by this disaster.

The Society of American Archivists and other professional organizations can help by verifying that individuals seeking access are making such requests in good faith. Please contact me at any time of day if I can be of assistance. Thank you for considering this request.


Richard Pearce-Moses

cc: John Ketchum, Federal Emergency Management Agency
Florent Hardy, Jr., Louisiana State Archives