In the wake of the recent storms in the U.S. Gulf Coast, Ancestry.com is extending a helping hand to genealogy societies whose collections may have been damaged. The effort is two-pronged: first, to help recover damaged materials today, and then to take steps now in preparation for future catastrophes.
In conjunction with the U.S. Federation of Genealogical Societies, Ancestry.com has created a web site to serve as a clearinghouse of information. In short, it is to be a working list of "who needs what." Ancestry.com and its parent corporation, MyFamily.com, will then use their resources to match the needs with those able to help.
In many cases, the assistance will come from various Federal and non-profit agencies that are prepared to help in case of natural disasters. In fact, several libraries and other larger organizations have already applied for and have received grants from various agencies to restore materials damaged by the hurricanes.
While such assistance is already available today, informal conversations indicate that many small genealogy societies are either unaware of the available assistance or else lack the personnel and expertise to write a grant request. Even though financial assistance is available, smaller organizations frequently never apply. Ancestry.com can "broker" the requests by helping to identify and define the needs, matching those needs to available sources of relief and then writing or assisting with the writing of the necessary proposals.
Depending upon identified needs, each request will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis to determine which organization(s) are best able to help. Ancestry.com may also offer direct assistance, such as replacement of books where feasible or possibly direct financial assistance.
Longer-term efforts again will depend upon each society's needs. One item in the works today is the creation of a digital preservation handbook. This new publication will describe how to digitize, organize, and preserve newspapers, magazines, books, artifacts, images, sounds, and other archival items. The book is expected to be around 100 pages and will be offered free to societies.
Later possibilities could include the creation of a "digital warehouse," where local societies can store the files they have created. The storage site might be on RootsWeb or one of MyFamily.com's other sites; however, the stored material will always remain under the direct control of the owning society. This would provide off-site backup copies of each society's digitized assets in accordance with today's recommendations by archivists. Again, all future efforts will be in response to demonstrated needs.
If your society has suffered losses because of last year's storms, you should first look at the Ancestry.com message board at http://boards.ancestry.com/mbexec?htx=board&r=rw&p=topics.organizations.SRS and the matching web page at http://www.rootsweb.com/~srs/. As I write these words, only basic information is available on those pages. That is because no society has yet asked for assistance. The intent of these pages is to serve as a clearinghouse for each applying society's needs.
Next, you should obtain a damage survey form from email@example.com and give a brief description of the damage. Return the form to firstname.lastname@example.org so that it may be evaluated and prioritized. An Ancestry.com employee will then contact you to initiate the process.
Again, each request will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
If your society has suffered damage or loss to its collection of books, microfilms, CD-ROM disks, artifacts, or other material of importance to genealogists, assistance is available from Ancestry.com and other organizations.