If you live in Iowa, have Iowa ancestry, or have any other interest in Iowa history, you will want to be aware of a situation described by Tyler Priest in an article in the Des Moines Register. Priest writes:
“The Iowa Department of Cultural Affairs has mismanaged the [Historical Society of Iowa] for years, but recently the situation has become dire. Because of budget austerity and shifting priorities, public service hours at both the Iowa City and Des Moines research centers have been reduced to only three days a week. The source of the problem is that DCA leaders have diverted scarce funds away from hiring archivists, librarians and catalogers, in favor of administrators, public relations managers, and marketers who lack the training and commitment to guarantee the society’s longstanding mission ‘as a trustee of Iowa’s historical legacy.'”
Tyler Priest then goes on to describe the physical condition of the collections:
“Materials go unprocessed because the few staff members who remain can do little more than open the doors and answer email. In 2009, the society suspended the longstanding and popular program to microfilm local newspapers and later rebuffed $250,000 in proposed state funding to ease the backlog. Priceless documents and photographs are deteriorating because DCA leadership has not employed a conservator to stabilize them. Acquisitions have ceased, even though history has not. Lip service is paid to digitizing records, but this would require a large increase in staff and funds. Iowans are steadily losing their history, county by county, community by community, page by page.”
You can read this and a lot more in Tyler Priest’s article at http://goo.gl/61KO9X.
My thanks to newsletter reader Rebecca Christensen for telling me about this article.