Responding to Hurricane Katrina: Team to Visit Mississippi

September 17, 2005—The archival community expressed its support and concern for the people of the Gulf Coast states devastated by the effects of Hurricane Katrina in a September 2nd joint statement encouraging colleagues to contribute financial resources and volunteer to assist in relief efforts. As the essential needs for shelter, food, and protection are addressed, conditions are beginning to develop to allow assessment and response to archives and records issues. Conditions in Mississippi have now improved sufficiently to allow for initial exploration of how the archives and records community can be of assistance to our friends and colleagues in that state.

On September 18-20, a team will travel to Mississippi to meet with Hank Holmes, Director of the Department of Archives and History, State Archivist Julia Young, and other colleagues to assess how archivists in the United States can help their colleagues in areas struck by Hurricane Katrina. The team includes David Carmicheal, President of the Council of State Archivists (C0SA) and State Archivist for Georgia; Richard Pearce-Moses, President of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) and Director of Digital Government Information for the Arizona State Library and Archives; and Debra Hess Norris, Chair of Heritage Preservation and Chair of the Art Conservation Department at the University of Delaware. Holmes welcomed the group's trip, expressing his appreciation for the profession's concern and efforts to help in ways that meet their needs. Other partners in organizing this trip include the National Association of Government Archives and Records Administrators (NAGARA), the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the Council of State Library Administrators (COSLA) and the Society of Southwest Archivists (SSA).

Continuing restrictive conditions necessitated both a very limited number of participants and duration for this initial visit. The team will be briefed on the existing conditions based on preliminary assessment work undertaken by the Mississippi Department of Archives and History staff and assisted by conservators from the Georgia Archives and Emory University working in the area this past week. Norris will provide a workshop for local staff focusing on disaster-recovery techniques for photographs. The team will then travel with members of the Department of Archives and History staff to coastal areas hit hardest by the storm. The team will focus on the conditions and assistance needed for local government records, archival/historical records and special collections. Finally, the team will discuss with professional colleagues in Mississippi the types of assistance most useful to support their recovery efforts over the coming weeks, months and years.

The team will return with photographs and stories to raise awareness in the federal government, the media, and the general public of the need for funds to recover from this disaster and to be prepared for future disasters. The collaborating organizations for this trip will work with our Mississippi colleagues to coordinate offers of resources and volunteer time needed. The organizations mounting this effort are pursuing routes for undertaking a similar trip to Louisiana when conditions permit to offer support and assistance to colleagues in the archives and records communities there. Individuals interested in volunteering should enlist through the SAA website.