Antero Pietila has written an article in the (Baltimore) Examiner that describes the crumbling archives at various nearby locations. The Enoch Pratt Free Library's little-known treasures are the vertical files in the Maryland department. They hold 7,000 large envelopes full of yellowing newspaper clippings, reports, and documents detailing Baltimore's life and development, mostly from the 1930s to the 1980s.
Visiting the vertical files is mandatory for information about Baltimore during World War II or about the city's housing and education problems. Over the years, the vertical files have spawned innumerable books, dissertations, and term papers. But many of those brittle files are literally turning to dust.
Perhaps even more distressing, the oral history collections of the Maryland Historical Society and the University of Baltimore are now so fragile that researchers can no longer listen to original interviews for fear of damaging the audiotapes beyond repair. Pietila writes:
"This is nothing short of a calamity. Many important interviews have not been transcribed on paper. If neglect destroys the original tapes, valuable first-person assessments of Maryland's recent history will be lost, including a huge interview project on local civil rights struggles.
"The local institutions housing this material must digitize the documents as soon as possible before the files and audio tapes disintegrate. They will need extra money to complete the project and should band together to maximize private and public fundraising."
You can read Antero Pietila's article at http://tinyurl.com/35r5oc.