Preservation

Millionaire Property Developer Used Children’s Gravestones to Build a Patio

Here is another “misuse of tombstones” story. You would think people would have more common sense than to desecrate graves.

Kim Davies took tombstones from a derelict chapel and cemented them to the walls of Llanwenarth House in Abergavenny, South Wales, where Cecil Frances Alexander penned the famous hymn. Planners were horrified when they saw the ‘decorative stone plaques’ had been used as part of a gaudy £1m makeover to the Grade II-listed home, turning it into a ‘palace for an Iron Curtain dictator’.

One of the 150-year-old gravestones was even engraved with the names of three brothers and a sister who all died while under the age of four.

Conservationists Preserve Tennessee Land Records

For decades, heaps of land records laid untouched in the state Capitol’s attic before being moved to the Tennessee State Library and Archives when it was built in the 1950s. Now workers there are preserving the documents that detail land ownership and exchanges as far back as 1779. Carol Roberts and Kat Trammell are delicately piecing together Tennessee history.

Roberts, the archives’ head conservationist, says the pieces of paper filled with hand-drawn sketches and detailed descriptions of property boundaries are dirty and fragile, with some left as brittle as dried leaves.

Monmouth County, New Jersey, County Clerk to Preserve Naturalization History

Monmouth County Clerk Christine Giordano Hanlon recently found a treasure trove of Monmouth County history when she came upon books documenting thousands of applications for naturalization that date back to the 1800s. The records of 34,677 applicants for naturalization to be moved to Archives, located in the Monmouth County Library Headquarters in Manalapan.

You can watch a YouTube video of the preservation process at https://youtu.be/py0mNAB39io or in the video player below:

How to Store Films and Documents on a Large Scale

If you want to store documents, microfilm, microfiche, movie films, or computer files, there is one place that can handle any size requirements you might have: Iron Mountain. Hidden away in the hills of rural Butler, Pennsylvania, Iron Mountain houses some of America’s most amazing, priceless treasures in a temperature-controlled and humidity-controlled underground storage facility.

Preserving and Digitizing Newspapers

Archivists using the latest conservation technology are racing to digitize 300 years of newspapers before they crumble to dust – and that’s just for starters. The Guardian has published a fascinating story about a huge project by a team from the British Library that is preserving newspapers. The article says:

A gigantic robotic vault, the National Newspaper Building in Boston Spa, near Leeds, is the British Library’s high-tech approach to safeguarding what it rather endearingly terms “the national memory” – 750m pages of news, covering more than three centuries of goings-on, as reported in papers across the nation. From political turmoil to humanitarian crisis, murder cases to local marriage notices, it’s all here. And it’s growing. “We’re adding something like 1,200 titles every week,” says Alasdair Bruce, manager of the British Library Newspaper Programme.

Preserve the Pensions July Initiative to Share a Document a Day

Here is a great idea from the several groups that are working to preserve, digitize, and make available online the War of 1812 pensions. I would hope every genealogist would help support this effort.

Welcome to July, 2015!

There is always so much to celebrate during the month of July. We spend time at family gatherings, picnics, and honoring our nation’s heritage. During the coming month, we are excited to celebrate our progress in the effort to digitally preserve the pension files from the War of 1812.

We have found some amazing material within the collection so far, and what better way to share it with our friends than in our Facebook group? We now have just over 1,000 people engaged in conversation, asking interesting questions, and assisting each other in their War of 1812 related research. Whether you are a genealogist, historian, or educator, we would invite you to be a part of that community.

Help for Texas Flood Victims to Salvage Wet Documents and Heirlooms

Conservators and students at The University of Texas at Austin’s School of Information are available to provide advice and limited disaster recovery assistance to help this weekend’s flood victims salvage damaged family treasures. Wet papers and photographs, textiles, scrapbooks, books and other sentimental objects should be frozen, if possible, and not thrown out, the conservators say.

Losing such items can be devastating after disasters such as floods. Luckily, many things can be salvaged with proper guidance.

World War II Spitfire Pilot Takes His Legacy Online

What will people know about you after you die? Some people are going a step further, and creating a virtual “shoeboxes” of family photographs, love letters, marriage certificates, priceless video clips and key documents, in an attempt to preserve their most precious memories.

One such person is Brian Bird, a former World War II Spitfire pilot who has lived a long, exciting – and at times terrifying – life. Now, at the age of 90, he is embarking on one of his most important missions, to create a digital record for his family to remember him by after his death.

Digital Files May Last Much, Much Longer than Paper or Microfilm

NOTE: This is an updated version of an article I originally published several years ago. A newsletter reader recently questioned the life expectancy of digital files versus paper. I referred him to my earlier article but noticed that it was a bit out of date. I have now rewritten part of the original article and am republishing it today.

I often write about digital products for use in genealogy. Here is a comment I hear and read all the time: “I am going to keep my files on paper to make sure they last for many years, longer than digital files.”

Wrong! Properly maintained, digital files will always last much, much longer than paper or microfilm. Let’s focus on the phrase, “properly maintained.”

Ghostly Voices From Thomas Edison’s Dolls Can Now Be Heard

In 1890, the Edison Phonograph Company manufactured dolls with wax cylinder records tucked inside each one. When cranked, each doll recited snippets from nursery rhymes. This was fabulous technology in 1890, a time when most people had not yet heard of phonograph records or any other method of reproducing sound. Sadly, Edison’s dolls were a flop; production lasted only six weeks. Children found them difficult to operate and more scary than cuddly. The purchase price of ten dollars also was much higher than what most families of 1890 could afford.

Virgin Islands Records to be Digitized

The Moravian Archives in Bethlehem, Pa., has received a $37,982 grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities to conserve and digitize 120 linear feet of archival records documenting Moravian mission work in the Caribbean – specifically the territory now known as the U.S. Virgin Islands.

The records are significant because they contain a treasure trove of information about the enslaved population in the Caribbean, information that is critical to many people doing genealogical research in the territory.

Details may be found in an article in the Virgin Islands Daily News at http://goo.gl/FquGCE.

New NEH Grant to Digitize Family Records

The National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced “Common Heritage,” the first grant of its kind, to make “light historical records and artifacts currently hidden in family attics and basements” available to the public. In announcing the initiative, NEH Chairman William “Bro” Adams said, “We know that America’s cultural heritage isn’t found only in libraries and museums, but in our homes, in our family histories, and the stories and objects we pass down to our children.”

The announcement states, “The program supports day-long events organized by community cultural institutions, which members of the public will be invited to attend. At these events experienced staff will digitize the community historical materials brought in by the public. Project staff will also record descriptive information—provided by community attendees—about the historical materials. Contributors will be given a free digital copy of their items to take home, along with the original materials. With the owner’s permission, digital copies of these materials would be included in the institutions’ collections. Historical photographs, artifacts, documents, family letters, art works, and audiovisual recordings are among the many items eligible for digitization and public commemoration.”

Tarrant County, Texas, is Digitizing Old Court Records for Preservation

Tarrant County, Texas, court files are continuing a years-long effort to make electronic copies of old case files and to destroy most of the paper counterparts. However, a few documents of “famous files” are being digitized but the paper is then preserved.

Tarrant County includes the courts for Dallas and nearby suburbs. Over the years, many famous cases have been aired in the courts of the county, including cases involving the late, famed attorney Melvin Belli who was prevented from representing Jack Ruby, who shot Lee Harvey Oswald. Dozens of other famous files are being preserved, including the Cullen Davis trials in which he was prosecuted for the slaying of his estranged wife’s daughter and in a murder-for-hire scheme in the 1970s; and the Koslow trial, where Kristi Ann Koslow and friends Brian Dennis Salter and Jeffrey Dillingham were convicted of killing her step-mother, Caren, and injuring her father, Jack.

New Data Storage Method Could Preserve Digital Information for Millions of Years

I have written several times about the pros and cons of storing digital data versus using paper or other forms of storage media. Newsletter readers have been active posting opinions and suggestions in the Comments Section at the end of those articles. A new storage method developed by at ETH Zurich should satisfy the needs of all of us.

Taking inspiration from the way fossilized bones can preserve genetic material for hundreds of thousands of years, researchers have developed a “synthetic fossil” by writing digital information on DNA and then encapsulating it in a protective layer of glass. Researchers believe the data will then be readable for millions of years, assuming compatible hardware is still available in the future.

Fire at Brooklyn Warehouse Could Take a Week or More to Fully Put Out

We often read stories about public records being destroyed by fire, flood, hurricane, or other disasters. However, in the past week we seem to have set a new record: three repositories destroyed by fire, one small one and two huge ones. Here is the latest such report:

More than 50 units and almost 300 firefighters called to extinguish the seven-alarm fire in a massive blaze at a Brooklyn warehouse on Saturday. Help was needed from a marine unit as well. The facility stored millions of boxes of public paper records, which acted as kindling, allowing the fire to spread quickly and to resist attempts to put out the flames.

Fire in Major Russian Library Destroys One Million Historic Documents

A fire that ripped through one of Russia’s largest university libraries is believed to have damaged more than one million historic documents, with some describing the fire as a cultural “Chernobyl”.

The blaze, which began on Friday and was still not completely out on Saturday evening, ravaged 2,000 square metres (21,500 sq ft) of the Institute of Scientific Information on Social Sciences (Inion) in Moscow, which was created in 1918 and holds 10 million documents, some of which date back to the 16th century.

British Library opens National Newspaper Building

The British Library opened a new long-term home for UK national newspaper collection last week. The facility is huge. It appears to be the latest, state-of-the-art facility featuring robotic cranes to retrieve newspapers from shelving that are 20 metres (65 feet) high. Of course, it has temperature and humidity controls, as one might expect in any archival facility.

In reading about the new facility, one thing jumped out at me: the newspapers are stored in a dark, airtight, low-oxygen environment, both for preservation purposes and to eliminate the risk of fire. Apparently, humans are unable to breath within the stacks unless they are equipped with oxygen tanks. Items are normally retrieved by robotic cranes, which transfer stacks of newspapers via an airlock to a retrieval area where staff can remove requested items and send them either to the British Library Newsroom at St Pancras or the on-site Reading Room at Boston Spa.

The following is the press release issued by the British Library:

Preserve Your Family Documents and Photos at RootsTech 2015

RootsTech 2015 will be a 3-day event offering more than 200 classes; an expo hall of hundreds of exhibitors and sponsors, including interactive booths to assist in your family history journey; general sessions with well-known and inspiring speakers; and entertaining events at the end of each day. See my earlier article at http://goo.gl/c4c7uC for details.

One vendor in this year’s exhibits hall, EZ Photo-Scan, is inviting all attendees to bring their family pictures, documents, and any memorabilia that can be digitized, for free scanning on site.

Perkins County, Nebraska, Newspaper Digitization Project is being Expanded

Perkins County is about to be permanently written with the announcement of a grant given to the Hastings Memorial Library in Grant. Thanks to a grant from Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Nebraska, the Hastings Memorial Library to receive the gift. Robin Quinn, Hastings Memorial Library Director, plans to use the funds to continue the ongoing Local Newspaper Digitization project.

Van Buren County, Tennessee Offices Destroyed by Fire, Birth, Marriage, Death, and Many Other Records Lost

It is a sad day for genealogists as another burnt courthouse is added to the list of records lost. Van Buren County, Tennessee, officials are scrambling after a huge fire destroyed the county administrative building in Spencer on Wednesday night. Historical records from the 1840s and later were destroyed, including Civil War artifacts, pictures from the Civil War, birth certificates, death certificates, and thousands of historical records. The local historical society also was housed in the building and lost everything as well.

“It’s a total loss,” said Van Buren County 911 director David Chandler. “We were able to salvage a couple old books and a few other items from the trustee’s office, but that was about it.” The fire was believed to have started in the historical society and then spread throughout the building.

One bit of good news: Mayor Wilson told news reporters county records are backed up on hard drives in different locations across the county in the event of situations just like this. That’s good news for keeping the county’s business affairs operational but I was unable to find any mention if older, historical records are backed up in a similar manner. Hopefully, the older records also are backed up as well.

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