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Since No One Knows Us, We Decided to Social-ize: the National Park Service Northeast Museum Services Center

NMSC-teaser

Some of you may not realize that the National Park Service (NPS) has “museums” or museum collections.  Many of you may not know what a Curator, an Archivist, an Archeologist or a Conservator actually does behind the scenes for any museum that you’ve been to. And most of you have probably never heard of the Northeast Museum Services Center – referred to by our initials (NMSC).  But, you undoubtedly know the power of social media to connect you and other readers with this type of information.

The NMSC is an NPS program that helps parks – primarily in the Northeast – with preserving, protecting and making accessible museum and archival collections. Our team of Curators, Archivists and Conservators are available for cataloging (both archeology and archives); museum research and planning; collections conservation and general technical assistance.  Think of us as museum consultants for the parks – we help parks to assess their collections management issues; to find funding to correct those problems and then to assist them with correcting those problems.

We were fairly late to the game, but we now realize the value of social media to any organization and have started additional public outreach through Twitter, Facebook and a blog of our own.

Is Tweeting Really for Us?

For at least a year or more, that was the question bouncing around our office about Twitter and other forms of social media.  Our office is a generational mix from 20 something volunteers, interns and technician that all want to be on the cutting edge of innovation to 40+ year old staff that are unsure of the value added by websites that our kids are using in their free time.  We are also like most entities nowadays, being asked to do more with less. Two of our full-time staff members left for other jobs in less than a year and we were unable to re-fill those positions.  In that time, the workload only increased.  With that in mind, should we be “wasting” valuable staff time on something “frivolous” like Facebook or Twitter?

I’ll admit that I’m one of the 40-somethings and I was on the fence about the value that we might get from putting any staff time towards social media.  But, I/we realized several things based on general observations, calls with our parks and an assessment of social media usage –

  1. Most people are unaware that NPS sites even have “museums” and/or museum collections. We hear the same thing that you may be thinking, “But, the NPS is Grand Canyon and Yellowstone. It does not have museums like Smithsonian.” You are correct that the NPS has very few traditional four-wall museums like the Smithsonian.  But, what we do have (and that we help to manage) are 26 million artifacts and archival documents in the Northeast alone in the real places that they were used or made.  That includes the landscape drawings of the Olmsteds at Frederick Law Olmsted NHS, the library of John Quincy Adams at Adams NHP, archeological collections from Jamestown at Colonial NHP, Civil War archival collections at Gettysburg NMP, and natural history specimens collected from Shenandoah NP.
  2. Since the NMSC is a behind-the-scenes group that even lacks a public domain name, most people (NPS staff included) are not aware of the services that we provide.  In many cases, the general public may have heard the title Curator, Archivist, Archeologist or Conservator, but may not really know what we do.  We all know the objects that we see on exhibit or the documents that we use for research, but collections care is also a critical component of the NPS mission that needs to be fostered.  Not to mention the fact that all cultural institutions need to help build and diversify the museum studies workforce.
  3. Social media has already become the information clearinghouse for the museum field. While we were blindly thinking that Twitter was just celebrity gossip or blogs are a dying form of communication, all forms of social media had become the accepted way of disseminating information for organizations such as Association of American Museums (AAM), Smithsonian Institution and most of our parks.  We had isolated ourselves and we were missing critical information.

So, in late 2010 with the relaxing of some NPS social media restrictions, we decided to join the rest of the world and test out a social media initiative for our office.

Now, Go Engage Your “Audience”

Giles Parker
Giles Parker, Museum Curator, Northeast Museum Services Center, National Park Service

Okay, so, we knew what we wanted to say about the museum collections in the National Park Service and about our work. Our goals were/are fairly simple: highlight the museum collections in the Northeast Region of the NPS; encourage the public (as well as NPS followers) to adopt an overall stewardship ethic; and connect (or re-connect) ourselves with non-NPS museum professionals in order to stay abreast of the latest curatorial trends.

BUT – Who is our audience? How do we attract them to us? What are the best forms of social media to do that? And, what format should the content take?  Many books have been written about the use of social media by museums; workshops are available and the web is full of great websites that provide guidance.  None of those are focused on a behind-the-scenes program like ours that works with collections from many disparate sites and focuses on region-wide collection management issues.  We decided to turn to one of our 20-something Museum Specialists (Megan Lentz) as our de facto Social Media Consultant to develop a short-term and long-term social media strategy.

Megan reviewed existing uses of social media by museums and brought her own usage to the discussion.  We then decided to start our slow roll-out with two Twitter feeds (@NPS_NMSC and @NMSC_Volunteers ), a Facebook Page and a blog focused on our Archeological Collections Management team.  Generally speaking, we’ve engaged our varied audience in a number of different ways:

  • Setting up searches on the federal government’s official jobs site for Curator, Archives, Archeology and Conservator job announcements that need wider distribution;
  • Creating Google searches focused on issues such as “museum storage,” museum security and fire prevention that affect all of our sites;
  • Developing a calendar of key dates for our parks – such as birthdates for historical figures – as times to highlight images and facts about NPS museum collections associated with those sites;
  • Connecting with our parks and other cultural institutions through Twitter and Facebook to find collection management information that we feel should be shared and discussed;
  • Generating threads that focus on key collection management issue including the use of museum collections in social media campaigns;
  • Initiating a feed focused on the work of our volunteers and interns program (@NMSC_Volunteers) to help build the workforce and reinforce the types of museum opportunities that are available;
  • Blogging about the work of our Archeological Collections Management team.  Most people know the Indiana Jones and the excavating side of archeology, but are unaware of the curation involved after the dig.  Postings have included research and photos on bottles that may have been used by George Washington, the history of matches, and a spotlight on pipe stems.
  • Utilizing a third-party social media dashboard (Hootsuite) to plan and space out postings to all of our accounts.

Where Do We Go From Here?

In less than 6 months, we feel like we’ve made significant progress towards our goals with NPS and non-NPS followers from across the nation.  In many ways, the numbers speak for themselves. We primarily provide service to 76 sites in the Northeast, but @NPS_NMSC (190+ followers), @NMSC_Volunteers (80+ followers), NMSC on Facebook (70+ followers), and our blog (300+ readers per posting) are reaching a much broader audience.  Hootsuite also provides analytics and many of our postings get 10 to 30 additional clicks for more information. Are those numbers that you’d be interested in?

Additionally, the current NPS Director Jon Jarvis was appointed in 2009 with a set of priorities that focused on Workforce, Relevancy, Education and Stewardship.  Our early successes with social media are also helping us and thus the NPS as whole to make progress in each of these areas as well.  We’ve been able to re-connect with the museum workforce outside of our region and outside of the NPS; help parks with relevancy by focusing on the latest trends in the use of museum collections; discover some of the latest technologies such as the use of Google Maps and also QR codes that might improve access to museum collections for educational purposes; and find information on fire prevention and security needs for museum collections.  And, we feel like we’ve only just started to scratch the surface.

Based on these early successes, we will continue to support and improve upon our current social media outlets.  We plan on getting more of our staff involved and thus highlighting more of our work as well as the collections in the Northeast.  We are also considering other social media options including a blog for our entire office.  Megan continues as our de facto Social Media Consultant and monitors the latest trends in social media usage.  We are also advocating for other NPS parks and regional programs to use social media in a similiar way (with an emphasis even less on “us” and more on the actual resources).  These statistics and early successes may also help us to advocate for a public domain name to reinforce the NPS stewardship role to the general public.

Conclusion

If you or your organization does not have a social media strategy at this point, consider the tremendous benefits and get started.  If you don’t have a 20-something on staff to work with as your Social Media Consultant, consider bringing someone on board or contracting with someone to develop and implement that strategy.  If you are interested in connecting with more museum or NPS information, consider following some of our parks and other cultural institutions through social media.  And, if you want to know more about NPS museum collections, what a Curator does, or what the NMSC does, consider following us on Twitter, Facebook or through our blog.

For a very small time commitment, you will find that social-izing is worthwhile.

Voices of the Past Video Netcast: Genealogy Gems’ Lisa Louise Cooke on establishing roots in the social web

Coming up in this edition of the Voices of the Past Netcast, we’ll meet Lisa Louise Cooke. Lisa created and maintains Genealogy Gems–one of the world’s most popular genealogy websites. She’ll tell us about the learning curve involved in using online media, and how she uses the web to create a deeper connection to her audience.

Thanks for joining us. I’m Jeff Guin. We’ll have that interview in a moment. First, here are a couple of briefs about heritage in the online world.

National Parks on Expedia

Expedia is partnering with the National Park Foundation on a new Web site to help travelers enjoy their trips to U.S. national parks a little more.

The site at includes downloadable park maps and other content from the National Park Foundation, as well as information about lodging options outside the parks.

The content also includes suggestions for long weekend itineraries with stops at national park sites in Colorado, Texas and Michigan, and a series of stories called “Can’t-Miss National Parks.” The first five parks featured in the “Can’t-Miss” series are the Grand Canyon, Yellowstone, Glacier, Olympic and Yosemite.

The timing of the Web site launch was designed to coincide with the airing of Ken Burns’ new documentary on public television, “The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.”

Virtual Museum of Iraq

Italy is putting the Baghdad museum online.

The Virtual Museum of Iraq is designed to make some of the world’s most important artifacts accessible to everyone.

The site offers visitors the chance to walk through eight virtual halls and admire works from the prehistoric to the Islamic period, while videoclips reconstruct the history of the country’s main cities.

The site is available in Arabic, English and Italian.

Visitors can rotate some objects in the virtual museum to get an almost 360 degree view.

Italy contributed one million euros and provided expert staff to help restore the museum, creating a restoration laboratory in Baghdad and overhauling the museum’s Assyrian and Islamic galleries.

Present-day Iraq lies on the site of ancient Mesopotamia between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers and the Baghdad museum boasts one of the best collections of ancient artfacts in the world.

Around 15,000 of the museum’s relics were carried off during a 48-hour looting spree in 2003 in the wake of the US invasion.

While around 6,000 works have been returned, many other pieces are still missing.

The Baghdad Museum Project is looking for international partners to help with its four-part plan to help save the museum. The program hopes to establish an online catalog to help locate the artifacts from the Baghdad museum.

It would also like to create collaborative workspace within the virtual Baghdad Museum, to allow international teams to work together.

Featured Voice of the Past: Lisa Louise Cooke
October is family history month in the U.S. And to celebrate, we’re featuring one of genealogy’s most prolific and beloved web personalities.

Lisa Louise Cooke has been passionate about family history since she was a child, looking at old family scrapbooks with her grandmother.  Since then, she’s turned that passion into a career.

She is the producer and host of the popular  Genealogy Gems Podcast, an audio and video genealogy show available in iTunes.

Additionally, she hosts the monthly Family Tree Magazine Podcast and videocasts for Family History Expos. I spoke to Lisa Louise Cooke recently, and here’s what she had to say about how she learned to use social media tools to promote genealogy.

[INTERVIEW BEGINS]
Cooke: I think it wasn’t difficult because I was so passionate about it. It’s like when it hits you, this is the right way to go, this is the right medium, I know what my message is then it was like, there aren’t enough hours in the day. And so for 30 days I think I was doing it around the clock just eating up everything I could find in just terms of how do you podcast, how do you hook the computer up, where do you get a mic, how do you set up a blog, and I was constantly–if I wasn’t podcasting or setting things up myself, I was out running around and doing arraigns  and listening to other people on podcasts explain how to do it. And that’s why I think that within the month I was able to get it up and running. But the ideas have been formulating for a long time, and it is kind of the classic story of you can look back and your life and say, “Wow. Everything I have been doing up to this point has been about getting ready to do this.” Because everything from my theatrical background to producing videos to being on a television show and learning about interviewing, my passion for family histories, some of the teaching opportunities I had had in small class settings, all came together and it was like, “This is the time, this is the moment where it all gels.”

Guin: So here’s a scenario: Someone’s watching this and they’re inspired, and they are developing their own sense of mission, and they want to involve new media in it. What advice would you have for that person? How do they get started?

Cooke: Education. Educating yourself and know that there are a lot of free options out there to educate yourself. I mean there are some great books and things, but life keeps going on and you want to try to get as up to speed as possible as quickly as you can. I tapped into a lot of podcasts, I just went in there and I did key word searches on how do you do this, how do you do that, video, podcasts, whatever. And I would typically find somebody who had great information. So constantly educating yourself, thinking about what your message is. You really can’t be everything to everybody. In fact, I was just interviewing a blogger on my family podcast, and she was saying, “You know, you can’t be so and so, they are already there, you know? Don’t try to mimic somebody else, but take what your strengths are and use that. And then decide what the focus of your message is. And also one thing I have just been using lately when I wrote my courses for the university was YouTube. People, particularly older folks, tend to get nervous about going onto YouTube because there is a lot of stuff out there that they don’t want to see. I’m with them on that, but if you use that search box you will be able to hone right into what you are looking for and you bypass all that stuff. And so when I was looking for these different topics that I was writing about, I would go out and throw a key word out into YouTube and I would find somebody who produced a video about it and I got a little snippet here and there, and I was able to reference that and give that to my students. My gosh, I just took up knitting. Couldn’t figure out how to do a yarn over and I went and put up “knitting yarn over,” and there was somebody showing me how to do it on the video. So that can be applied to anything. And there is a lot of great people producing content, and every single day there is something new. So it’s always worth going back and checking. I dunno, does that answer your question?
Guin: It certainly does. And I think it’s important for people to realize as well for people doing that knitting video probably had a $300 camera from Walmart. It doesn’t take a lot of money or fancy equipment to produce this stuff. So I guess what would be valuable if you could just share some of the equipment you use.

Cooke: It’s evolved over time. I have started out with one of those little $10 RadioShack microphones, you know, the little plastic ones. Very quickly realized I didn’t like the sound of it, and I went and bought a podcasting kit, which had the microphone and that type of thing on Amazon and have upgraded from there. And that brings me back to when you are trying to learn how to do some of this stuff, you think I do want to do a blog or I do want to do video, go out and find somebody that you think is doing a terrific job. And watch it. And look for the details. Don’t worry about all the big picture stuff that they are talking about. I really believe that it’s in the details. That’s where the real connection happens, and the quality happens. And then right now I have my new Macintosh, which is kind of the video, auto center. I have my old PC that I finally got a new flatscreen for. I had my laptop because I do go and I do do presentations. Last year I invested in my own projector so now I can say, “Yep. I can go to a seminar,” and I can be set up to go. And my latest is my Boom, I guess you can call it a Boom for my mic. Before it was always on my desk, and you know, I would go crashing and it would hit the floor, and I would bump it and that kind of thing. Now it’s on a Boom. It looks like like it does in a radio station. And I think it was a $100, but it seemed like an extravagance to me. I waiting a long time to spend the money on it, and it is a godsend. That and the popscreen for the microphone. So, like you are asking me, if you hear somebody you think is doing a great job or you like their video. You’d be amazed. People are so helpful. I email people all the time, “By the way, can you give me an idea or an clue or whatever,” and people are always willing to share. That’s one of my mottos: ask, ask, ask. Don’t be afraid to ask, all they can do is say, “No, I’m too busy.”
Guin: And that’s the great thing about the web, you can ask people all over the world. You’re not limited to just your local area.

Cooke: I had a podcaster in Australia contact me and say, “Oh, I heard your podcast. Loved this, loved that, but you might tweak this to get the sound better.” And he had been doing podcasts for two years, so it was amazing.
[INTERVIEW ENDS]
Lisa Louise Cooke speaks nationally on genealogy topics. She is also the author of the book Genealogy Gems: Ultimate Research Strategies as well as the Genealogy Gems News Blog.You can listen to more of our interview in the Voices of the Past audio podcast on the shownotes site and on iTunes. 

And our shownotes site is also the place to find out more about all of the stories we’ve told you about today. That’s all for this edition of the netcast. In the meantime, we’ll see you online.

Voluntourism and More Meaningful Vacations – Volunteer your Vacation Time to Preserve Natural Heritage

by Dylan Staley

Sometimes, you just need a vacation. Sometimes our families get so caught up in what we’re doing everyday to take a break, relax, and enjoy the world around us. Often times, families take a vacation to a serene spot to get away from the world for a while.

And others get closer to it.

Everyday, all around the nation, families are taking vacations not to relax, but to help and volunteer their services to help preserve nature. Through partnerships with many organizations such as The Ocean Conservancy, The Nature Conservancy, The National Park Service, The Association of Zoos and Aquariums and The Surfrider Foundation, families can donate their vacation time to serve a better purpose: to help take care of the world we live in.

Voluntourism (volunteer vacations) is the idea that while we are enjoying the world we live in, we can also be ensuring that others in the future have that same chance. If we do not preserve the natural heritage of our planet, it will be lost. Someone has to take the initiative to do what needs to be done to ensure that future generations are able to enjoy nature just as we have.

From the Februrary 2009 issue of “FamilyFun”:

My family discovered the singular satisfaction of blending vacations and volunteering one summer afternoon on a remote Mexican beach.

For two hours, [my family] and I searched for endangered sea turtle nests […].

Just as we were about to call it a day, we spotted the unmistakeable V-shape of sea turtle tracks leading from the water to the dunes. A circle of disturbed sand at the end of the trail left no doubt the mother turtle had laid her clutch.

[…] We learned the next day that the nest contained 87 eggs, which were moved to a protected area until the hatchlings’ release. The kids felt that they had personally saved those 87 baby turtles, and maybe they did.

As you can see, volunteering can have benefits both for the Earth and the volunteers.

To learn more about volunteering to help preserve nature, visit the following pages:
Volunteer with the National Park Service
Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup
TogetherGreen Volunteer Events
Volunteer with the Nature Conservancy
FamilyFun: “Volunteer Outings” by Melissa Gaskill

To learn more about volunteer vacations, visit Peter Greenberg’s page on voluntourism.

Also, listen to the Voices of the Past Radio show featuring Jamie Dunahoe and learn how you can plan to share her Adventures in Preservation.

 

English: Marion Jarisch, a volunteer with The ...

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U.S. National Park Service designates four new National Natural Landmarks

WASHINGTON – A rare ecosystem in Pennsylvania, the sixth longest cave in
Texas, and major fossil sites in Kentucky, New York, and Vermont were
recently named National Natural Landmarks.

The National Natural Landmarks Program, administered by the National Park
Service, recognizes significant examples of natural history and supports
property owners and managers in conservation efforts. There are now 586
listed sites.

“Nottingham Park Serpentine Barrens, Cave Without a Name, Big Bone Lick,
and Chazy Fossil Reef are the newest additions to the National Natural
Landmarks Program,” announced acting National Park Service Director Dan
Wenk. “Each of these sites has been identified, evaluated, and designated
through a scientific process that formally acknowledges their outstanding
biological or geological features.”

The Nottingham Park Serpentine Barrens in Chester County, Pennsylvania
support unique vegetation communities that contain many rare and endemic
species, including one of the northernmost occurrences of fame flower. The
site also has one of the state’s largest stands of pitch pine forest.

Cave Without a Name in Kendall County, Texas contains exceptional cave
formations, a rare and threatened salamander, and significant
paleontological deposits.

Big Bone Lick in Boone County, Kentucky is unique for its combination of
salt springs and associated Late Pleistocene bone beds.  The site has been
referred to as the birthplace of vertebrate paleontology in North America.
The Big Bone fossils played a very important role in the development of
scientific thought regarding the idea of extinction and the relationship of
geology and paleontology.

The Chazy Fossil Reef in Grand Isle County, Vermont and Clinton County, New
York contains surface exposures of an Ordovician fossil reef. The reef
recounts the tropical, marine environment that existed approximately 450
million years ago on the continental shelf of North America. This
paleontological treasure represents the oldest known occurrence of a
biologically diverse fossil reef in the world, the earliest appearance of
fossil coral in a reef environment, and the first documented example of the
ecological principle of faunal succession.

Since 1962, the National Natural Landmarks Program has supported the
cooperative conservation of important natural areas on private, state,
municipal, and Federal land. The decision to participate in the program is
completely voluntary and inclusion in the program does not dictate activity
or change the ownership of an area.

A complete list of National Natural Landmarks and additional information
about the program can be found at www.nature.nps.gov/nnl/

.

Judge urges Nov. 7 resolution in Gettysburg Cyclorama dispute

According to the Gettysburg Times, Judge Alan Kay has told the Recent Past Preservation Network and National Park Service officials to discuss a possible relocation agreement for the old Gettysburg Clyclorama. The park plans to demolish the building in mid-December.

Attorneys for Recent Past Preservation will seek an injunction if an agreement is not reached with the Park Service on relocating the building. The group maintains the significance of the building based on its status as a rare East Coast project by Richard Neutra. Neutra is considered one of modernism‘s most important architects.

The Gettysburg Cyclorama reopened on Sept. 26, 2008 at the new visitor center, which includes a 24,000 square foot Gettysburg Museum of the American Civil War. After an introductory film, visitors proceed into a room containing the cyclorama, which surrounds the viewers and puts them in the middle of the battle.

The panorama oil painting by Paul Dominique Phillippoteaux depicts Pickett’s Charge, at which the Union army stood against Lee’s Confederate troops in 1863. The painting was first shown in Boston in 1884 until it was moved it Gettysburg from 1910-13. After this initial movement, it was overpainted to hide the flaws or breaks. More overpaint repairs were made in the 1940’s and 1959-62.

The most recent restoration efforts by Olin Conservation Inc. of Great Falls, Virginia, and Perry Huston & Associates, Inc. of Fort Worth, Texas began in 2003 by removing dirt from the canvas and consolidating to secure loose or flaking paint. Olin and Huston have removed layers of repair paint from previous projects which had altered the original scene. The goal was to restore the painting as closely as possible to it’s original state, as it was when Phillippoteaux painted it.

Blogger Leslie Johnston recently discussed her visit to the newly restored Cyclorama, describing the way that the three-dimensional diorama at the base of the cyclorama “leads seamlessly into the painting.” Johnston praises the sound and light show which recreates Pickett’s Charge, putting the visitor in the middle of the battle. Of the Cyclorama, she writes, “It’s still an amazing illusion and it takes your breath away.”

Photo Slideshow

View the Clyclorama Photo Slideshow by miss_leslie on Flickr

Additional Links 

Two offered to take old Cyclorama building

Judge hears arguments to save Cyclorama

1884 Gettysburg painting restored, back on display

ALL FIRED UP

National Landmark "Kate Chopin House" is lost to fire

By Jeff Guin

CLOUTIERVILLE, LA–The Kate Chopin House, named for the legendary feminist writer who lived there during the 1880s, burned to the ground in an early morning fire today. The structure had been named a National Historic Landmark by the United States Department of Interior in 1993.

According to Vickie Parrish, president of the Association for the Preservation of Historic Natchitoches (APHN), the structure’s loss will be felt far beyond the Coutierville community.

“Countless people have invested their time and hearts into the restoration of this structure,” Parrish said. “So much had been done. But the real tragedy lies in how much more could–and would– have been done to make the Kate Chopin house a preservation showcase for the country. So many people loved it.”

The house was in a serious state of disrepair before APHN became steward of the property in 1979. The organization invested in several restoration efforts, including the installation of central air and heat in 1999.

The Creole-style home was built between 1805 and 1809 by Alexis Cloutier using slave labor and exemplifies the building style of that time. Creole architecture is characterized by its spacious galleries, gallery roofs supported by light wooden colonnettes and a form of construction utilizing a heavy timber frame combined with an infill made of brick.

Officials from the National Park Service’s Cane River Creole National Historical Park were on hand this morning to help salvage the few artifacts that survived the fire. The head archivist from the Cammie G. Henry archives at Northwestern State University of Louisiana was also assisting in the recovery.

The contents of the Bayou Folk Museum, which was housed in the Kate Chopin House, were also lost. Local resident Doris Roge’ says the loss is being especially felt in the Cloutierville community because so many citizens had contributed to the museum.

“A lot of people in the community donated or sold pieces for the museum,” she said. “Many pieces belonged to my grandfather. We’ve all lost a part of our heritage.”

Kate Chopin came to Cloutierville  with her husband Oscar, a New Orleans businessman who bought the house in 1879 at a sheriff’s sale. Kate was pregnant with their sixth child and quickly made enemies in the town.

According to Roge’, her grandfather often told stories of Chopin’s then-scandalous public smoking and flirtations with men other than her husband.

Many of Kate Chopin’s most important works, including Bayou Folk and The Awakening are set in Louisiana.

Dr. Lisa Abney is a Chopin scholar and dean of the College of Liberal Arts at Northwestern State University of Louisiana. She believes the burning of the Chopin House is a loss to the literary community as well.

“Kate Chopin’s work is important both nationally and regionally; Chopin’s creative and innovative fiction changed the face of American literature,” she said. “The loss of the Kate Chopin House and Bayou Folk Museum is a tremendous loss to fans of Chopin’s literature and to preservation. This is, indeed, a tragedy to no longer have this important treasure.”

The Kate Chopin House/Bayou Folk Museum is another significant blow to the history of the Cloutierville Community. Several important structures have been lost there over the years including the Carnahan Store, a National Register for Historic Places structure, which burned in 2004.

What caused the fire at the Kate Chopin House is still under investigation.

Photos from the scene of the fire can be seen at the NCPTT Flickr stream.

View more about the salvage operation in the video below:

Saving heirlooms from storm damage

Tropical storms and other flood events are often termed disasters because of injuries, fatalities and the destruction of homes and businesses. Part of the disaster is the loss of family heirlooms.

“I am saddened by the stories of people who have lost so much from floods and storms,” said National Park Service Director Mary A. Bomar. “We learn about their stories of survival in the news but also hear about damage to a lifetime of memories – the loss of personal heirlooms is devastating.”

Director Bomar said, “The National Park Service has been at the forefront in the effort to save, preserve and protect America’s treasures for nearly a century. We have tips available from our conservation and preservation experts for people who will be able to save family heirlooms before disaster strikes. And we have tips for how to deal with flood-damaged items.”

The National Park Service, along with other members of the Heritage Emergency National Task Force, produced a public service announcement video to help families. It is available on-line.

The following tips are adapted from the Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel produced by Heritage Preservation in support of the Heritage Emergency National Task Force.

Preparation before flooding:
Avoid storing family heirlooms in the basement, which is likely to flood.

Evacuate heirlooms, such as family photo albums, when possible–otherwise, place in closets or rooms without windows on upper floors.

Rinsing

Response and recovery after flooding:
Even if they are completely soaked, family treasures can probably be saved, if they are not contaminated with sewage or chemicals. Work on high priority items first.

Freeze books, paper, textiles, and most photographs that cannot be cleaned and dried within 48 hours to prevent mold. Interleave with freezer or waxed paper, if possible. Consult a conservator before freezing metal, plate glass, paintings, some photographs, and furniture.

Photographs: Rinse with cool, clean water, as necessary. Hang with clips on non-image areas or lay flat on absorbent paper.

Books: If rinsing is necessary, hold book closed. If partially wet or damp, stand on top or bottom edge with cover open to 90-degree angle and air dry.

Paper: Air dry flat as individual sheets or small piles up to 1/4″. Interleave with paper and replace interleaving when damp. Do not unfold/separate individual wet sheets.

Textiles: Rinse, drain and blot with clean towels/cotton sheets. Block and shape to original form. Air dry using air conditioning/fans. Do not unfold delicate fabrics. Do not stack wet textiles.

Furniture: Rinse/sponge surfaces gently to clean. Blot. Air dry slowly. If paint is blistered or flaking, air dry slowly without removing dirt or moisture. Hold veneer in place with weights while drying.  Separate the weights from the veneer with a protective layer. Upholstery: Rinse. Remove separate pieces, such as cushions and removable seats. Wrap in cloth to air dry and replace cloth when damp.

Framed paintings: Carefully remove from frames in dry area. Keep paintings horizontal, paint side up, elevated on blocks. Avoid direct sunlight.

Framed art on paper or photographs with glass fronts:  Remove from frames, unless art is stuck to glass. Dry slowly, image-side up with nothing touching the image surface. If art sticks to glass, leave it in frame and dry glass-side down.

If a precious item is badly damaged, a conservator can help. For guidelines on selecting a conservator, visit the American Institute for Conservation site.

Featured thumbnail courtesy of CR Artist on Flickr

 

 

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Top five sources for disaster response information

With the frequency of epic disasters in recent years, the preservation community is quickly adopting the Boy Scout motto “be prepared” in its approach to the recovery of heritage resources. Pages dedicated to the topic are popping up all over the web. Here are our picks for five of the best.

AIC Disaster Recovery Resources

The American Institute for Conservation links to recovery of various types of materials and also health-related considerations. Disaster-related articles from back Issues of the Journal of the American Institute for Conservation (JAIC). Also links to the findings of the Ground Zero/World Trade Center disaster.

Disaster planning for collections

The Society for Historical Archaeology administers this page on disaster response. It is practical in its approach, giving details on useful publications as well as ordering information. It also includes step-by-step instruction (with images, no less) on needed supplies, triage considerations and drying methods.

English: Logo of the National Center for Prese...

NCPTT disaster recovery page

The official disaster recovery site for the National Park Service, this site links to pages with of FEMA and the Heritage Emergency National Task Force. Content can be filtered by need, including damage assessment, earthquakes, fires, floods, hurricane recovery, wet recovery. Also contains downloadable PDFs and National Weather Service advisories.

Solinet Preservation Disaster Recovery Page

Easy-to-navigate page of links listed by both disaster and material type. Also includes a handy “advice” section on preparedness and choosing vendors as well as navigating the FEMA and disaster aid process.

National Trust Flood Recovery

An assortment of flood response web pages and pdfs assembled as a direct response to the summer floods in the Midwest. Includes a breakdown of the affected area by state along with links to affected cultural institutions.

We know there have to be additional resources out there. If you know of others, please share them.

Disaster recovery playlist from YouTube

Featured thumbnail photo by Alice Ann Krishnan

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8/08 NPS Heritage News Rundown

The August 08 edition of the National Park Service’s Heritage News reports the following:

The National Geographic Society is working with federal agencies to adopt the principles for promoting tourism that helps sustain and enhance visited places. A July 8 MOU created the “Geotourism Working Group.”

The World Heritage Committee adds 19 cultural sites and 8 natural sites to UNESCO’s World Heritage List during its recent meeting.

U.S. State Department’s eJournalUSA focuses on “National Parks, National Legacy.” Features interviews with Mary Bomar, NPS director, and legendary filmmakers Ken Burns and Dayton Duncan who are working on a documentary about U.S. National Parks to be broadcast in fall 2009.

The Lebanese Ministry of Culture is sponsoring an international architecture competition for the House of Arts and Culture of Lebanon in Beirut. The project is funded by a $20 million donation from the Sultanate of Oman.

“American Place: The Historic American Buildings Survey at 75 Years” is a public exhibit about the National Park Service’s Historic American Buildings Survey Runs through Nov. 14 at the U.S. Department of the Interior Museum in Washington, D.C.

A 1939 auto repair shop in Missoula, Mont., recently underwent a $866,474 rehabilitation. The rehab was supported by National Park Service Federal Historic Rehabilitation Tax Credits.

The National Park System Advisory Board met July 21-22 to recommend that the Secretary of the Interior designate the 19 sites as National Historic Landmarks.

In June, 69 listings were added to the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places, including 2,964 buildings, 27 sites, 28 structures, and 7 objects.

Wooden catboat “Gypsy” was among the new listings for the National Register of Historic Places in June.

The NAGPRA Review Committee will meet in San Diego Oct. 11-12 to consider disputes and requests for recommendations to the Secretary of the Interior for disposition of culturally unidentifiable, Native American, human remains.

Lisa Ackerman is the first recipient of the Ann Webster Smith Award for International Heritage Achievement. The US/ICOMOS award honors those who exemplify the role of the U.S. as a trusted partner for cultural heritage efforts in all parts of the world.

The Arizona State Museum and the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners have been selected to receive the 2008 Award for Outstanding Commitment to the Preservation and Care of Collections from Heritage Preservation and the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works. Nominations for next year’s award are now being accepted.