Saving History from the recent Aberdeen Museum of History Fire, One Photo at a Time

I wrote recently about a fire that damaged many of the documents and artifacts at the Aberdeen Museum of History and the Grays Harbor Genealogical Society research library. (See my earlier articles at and at for more information about the damage.) Some of the items were completely destroyed but volunteers at  the Washington State Archives are trying to salvage as much as they can from the fire.

An article by Louis Krauss in The Daily World web site describes the restoration project:

“On Tuesday last week, Washington State Archivist Steve Excell, about five other state archivists and a team of workers from ServPro, a company that specializes in restoration after disasters, spent hours recovering and boxing up the historical documents and photos from the basement of the Armory. The basement was flooded during the fire, and a lot of the documents received water damage but were not burned.

Should Government Offices Store Paper Documents? or Digital Images?

I received an email message from a newsletter reader asking about a recent experience she had with a county records clerk. I answered her in email but decided to also publish my reply here in this newsletter because I suspect her experience is going to become more common with every passing year.

I deleted the name of the city, county, and state because I believe this is a nationwide and even international issue. It could have happened anywhere. Let’s focus on the issues, not on the location:

“Hi, Mr. Eastman

“I wanted to share this with you. I am researching genealogy for a friend of mine. He told me that his parents were married in {city and state deleted} and wanted proof of that. He did not have any more information than that.

“Today, I contacted the County Clerk to verify that they were married there. The clerk found the record. I asked how much would it cost to get a certified copy. She said that ‘I will mail the original to you.’ I said, ‘The original?’ She replied, ‘Yes, we do not keep original documents anymore. We scan them into the computer system and mail them to the nearest family member.’

Update: A Fire at the Aberdeen (Washington) Museum of History Destroys Much of the Museum’s Collection and a Genealogy Society’s Library

This is an update to the article I published yesterday at:

I received an email message this morning from a newsletter reader whose name I will not divulge for privacy reasons. She wrote:

“I live in Aberdeen, WA. Just so you know, they have already started to recover items from the basement. They have been able to find pictures and documents, floating in water. Many of the pictures are already showing signs of mold. “

The U.K. National Archives is Investigating the Use of Blockchain for Records Sharing

Blockchains first became popular with the rising popularity of crypto currencies, such as Bitcoins, Ethereum, Monero, and many others. However, the concept of electronic record keeping, or a ledger, of transactions is finding many other uses besides crypto currencies. Companies and organizations as diverse as IBM, the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Wal-Mart are in the process of adopting blockchain technology to their everyday business needs.

NOTE: Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology which is both tamper-resistant and decentralized. For an explanation of blockchain technology and why it is unhackable, see What is blockchain? Can it live up to the hype? at and Blockchain, Cryptosecurity & Cybersecurity at

Also, according to Forbes at

Blockchain exists as a shared database distributed across a public or private network of computers. A network uses its combined computing power to continuously reconcile data so that the shared ledger of transactions is updated and audited frequently. Secure, direct exchanges make blockchain ideal for trusted transactions. Individuals or businesses can utilize it to transfer intangible values such as equities, currencies, votes, patents or copyrights, as well as tangible property such as gold, real estate, pharmaceuticals or commodities.

Now The National Archives (TNA), the official record-keeper of the UK government, is investigating the use of blockchain for records sharing.

Plains to Peaks Collective Shares Historic Collections from Colorado and Wyoming with the Digital Public Library of America

From the Colorado Digital Library:

The Colorado State Library is happy to announce that historic collections from Colorado and Wyoming are now part of the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA). The DPLA website ( is a free portal that allows visitors to discover over 21 million unique items from across the United States and then go directly to the digital collections held at the home institution. Visit the Colorado and Wyoming collections in the DPLA here.

The Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad’s roundhouse and shops in Salida, Colorado. Click on the above image to view a larger version.

The Plains to Peaks Collective (PPC), the Colorado-Wyoming Service Hub of the DPLA, is a collaboration between the Colorado State Library and the Wyoming State Library that brings together descriptive information about collection material held by our libraries, archives, and museums, and makes it freely available to the world. Through the PPC institutions can now share their unique digital collections with a wider national audience of avid researchers, genealogists, students, teachers and history buffs. It is our hope that every institution in Colorado and Wyoming has the opportunity to participate in the DPLA through the PPC.

How to Maintain Your Own Personal Archive

Archivists Alexis Antracoli, Annalise Berdini, and Valencia Johnson have shared their tips for personal archiving in the digital age in an article in the Princeton Alumni Weekly. The ideas they offer make sense to me (and I do follow most of their suggestions). You might want to read the article at and then consider your own practices. Perhaps it is time for a change or two?

How to Get Scotch Tape Off of a Work of Art or a Family Document

Do you have an old document or family heirloom that has Scotch Tape applied? According to an article by Sarah Zhang in The Atlantic web site, “Sticky tape was first invented in the mid-19th century, and it’s been making conservators’ lives hell ever since.”

“Tape is the bane of the conservator’s existence,” says Margaret Holben Ellis, a professor of paper conservation at New York University. The problem is simply that tape works too well. Removing it can easily take off a layer of paper, and adhesives from old tape can sink into paper, staining it an unsightly yellow or brown.

New Brunswick Provincial Archives is Offering to Restore Photos and Documents Damaged by the Recent Flooding

The Provincial Archives in New Brunswick is offering to help residents restore or copy heirloom photos and documents damaged by recent flooding. Items to be considered for restoration include diaries, letters, maps, architectural drawings and photos. Photos can also be printed on paper, tin or glass.

The province says repairs of single documents will be done free of charge. Larger document recovery projects will be given quotes on a case-by-case basis.

The Largest Private Historical Archive in the USA of 4.5 Million Photos, Drawings, Engravings and More is For Sale

I doubt if many private individuals can afford this but a genealogy society, historical society, or perhaps a company that offers historical information on the World Wide Web might be very interested. The historical D. Jay Culver collection, valued at $163.2 million, is offered for $15 million.

According to the announcement from the company handling the sale:

“This unique collection, including more than 4.5 million photographs, plates, line drawings, prints, engravings, playbills and other historical art, delivers a solid opportunity for substantial estimated return on investment. For example, the value of less than one percent of the collection exceeds the asking price of $15 million.

How to Protect Rare Books, Manuscripts, and Your family’s Documents from the Ravages of Climate Change

I will suggest that a story by Sophie Yeo in the PacificStandard web site should be required reading by archivists, librarians, genealogists, government officials, and anyone else who cares about preserving old paper documents. She writes, “Almost all American archives are at risk from disasters or changing temperatures. Community history will probably be the first to go.”

She also writes:

“This history, in the form of manuscripts, codices, printed books, and other material artifacts, is kept in expensive and well-ventilated university collections; it is tucked in crumpling cardboard boxes under the desks of local librarians; it sits crammed into the storage cupboards of city governments. Some documents attract scholars from around the world, while others hold scant interest beyond hobbyist historians. Many are irreplaceable.

Has Your Family an Interesting Irish Emigration Story to Share?

From The Irish Times web site:

“Have you got an interesting migration story to share, or an object that tells the tale of your family’s move from one country to another?

“Members of the public are being encouraged to bring their migration tales to a “story collecting weekend” at Epic, the Irish Emigration Museum in Dublin on May 26th and 27th, along with objects that form part of their own or their family’s migration story, such as letters, postcards, photographs, tickets, diaries, artworks, items of clothing, recipes, books, footage, mementos, badges, or songs.

A Hidden Black Cemetery in Virginia is Rediscovered

Decades of overgrowth – branches, leaves, prickly brambles – cover the ground. However, if you look closely, you can see a break in the heavy brush. At least 17 gravestones dot the earth.

The cemetery appeared to have been abandoned for more than 50 years, and it wasn’t clear who was buried there, where or how many. Most of the plots were believed to be vacant, and there weren’t any headstones, lawyers wrote in court documents. The lawyers ran a legal notice in Inside Business; no one came forward. Historical societies didn’t have a record of the cemetery.

But in addition to the 17 gravestones, The Virginian-Pilot found more than 40 obituaries saying people were buried in the Edgewood Cemetery from the mid-1930s to the 1960s.

The Alabama Department of Archives and History Asks YOU to Help Transcribe World War I Service Records

Here is another worthwhile crowdsource project that will benefit genealogists, historians, and many others. From the Alabama Centennial Blog:

“The Alabama Department of Archives and History has launched its first crowdsourced transcription project, and we want YOU to join the effort.

“Earlier this month, as part of its commemoration of the World War I Centennial, the Archives launched the Alabama History DIY: World War I Service Records initiative. Archives staff, volunteers, and student workers spent eighteen months digitizing more than 100,000 index cards with information about the men and women who served in the war. Details ranging from biographical (age, residence, race) to military (enlistment date, branch of service, engagements) make the records a boon to both genealogists and historians. Users of the Archives’ World War I Gold Star Database will find this an excellent supplement, as it also includes survivors of the war.

Putting Chattanooga’s Historical Newspapers Online

Chattanooga history advocates David Moon of Picnooga and Sam Hall of are planning to make over 6,000 pages of Chattanooga’s historical newspapers searchable online as a free, open resource to benefit researchers, students, genealogists, and the general public, but they need your financial help.

According to the project’s web page at

One of the most valuable historical assets is local newspapers, which have been available on microfilm at public libraries for decades. But the old process of accessing newspapers on microfilm is extremely time-consuming and tedious, requiring points of reference and manual searching. Because of these obstacles, Chattanooga’s papers remain largely inaccessible.

There are now affordable and sustainable options to bring newspapers online. Digitization can produce accurate keyword search results from tens of thousands of indexed pages within seconds.

CBC Urged to Preserve Master Recordings of Radio and TV Programming after Making Digital Copies

NOTE: This is a follow-up to my earlier article, CBC (English-language) and Radio-Canada (French) Music Library Closing, CD’s to be Digitised, Destroyed, at

CBC News is reporting:

“The Canadian Broadcast Museum Foundation (CBMF) is urging CBC to stop destroying original radio and television programming after making digital copies, arguing these master recordings are irreplaceable.

“The Toronto charitable foundation said in a release Wednesday that CBC’s English Services began destroying original radio and TV programming at the beginning of April.

Libraries and Archives Canada Introduces Co-Lab, a Tool to Collaborate on Historical Records

Wikipedia defines crowdsourcing as “… a sourcing model in which individuals or organizations obtain goods and services, including ideas and finances, from a large, relatively open and often rapidly-evolving group of internet users; it divides work between participants to achieve a cumulative result.”

Crowdsourcing seems to be a great tool for genealogists to work together for the benefit of all. I have written often about the use of crowdsourcing in genealogy. See for a list of my earlier articles about crowdsourcing.

Now Libraries and Archives Canada is inviting everyone to “transcribe, add keywords and image tags, translate content from an image or document and add descriptions to digitized images using Co-Lab and the new Collection SearchBETA.”

The new project is described this way:

Louisiana Historical Center’s Colonial Documents Digitization Project

Genealogists researching Louisiana ancestry are fortunate to have many original manuscripts available from the 18th century. These include documents from New Orleans’ French Superior Council (1714-1769) and the Spanish Judicial Records (1769-1803). The documents provide a rich source of data on New Orleans’s earliest days, the Louisiana territory, the slave trade, and Native American relations, the Atlantic World, and Canada and the Caribbean, among other topics.

Access to these documents is a bit of an issue, however. The 220,000 pages of handwritten French and Spanish documents are stored in the Louisiana State Museum in New Orleans. Unfortunately, not everyone can travel to New Orleans and view the original documents during the hours the State Museum is open. Through various translations, English-language abstracts, and published summaries in Louisiana Historical Society’s journal, The Louisiana Historical Quarterly, the contents of the collection are partially accessible in print but difficult to use. The documents were not available online until recently and even today only part of the collection may be viewed online.

The Louisiana State Museum’s web site states: “According to Museum records, the colonial archives were microfilmed three times between the 1940s and 1980s, but only the most recent effort, by the LDS, is accessible today. In addition to the usual difficulties associated with reading microfilmed manuscripts, there is another problem: the microfilm reflects the current physical arrangement, which for the most part is strictly chronological – this is not the original order of the archives, in which each individual succession’s papers were kept together as a single file, regardless of the various dates or years in which they were created. Now, using the database’s search functions, any succession’s documents can be pulled together once more.”

Caretakers are Restoring Life to Minnesota’s 5,876 Graveyards

A database has identified 5,876 cemeteries across Minnesota, but the number is likely much larger — in areas adjacent to rural churches taken by development, or in overgrown woods, or long-forgotten in farm fields.

A bill in the Legislature would require local governments to take responsibility for abandoned cemeteries if a veteran is buried there. It also would establish an adopt-a-cemetery program similar to the one used for highways and require the state Historical Society to update its inventory of state cemeteries, abandoned cemeteries and burial grounds.

You can read the details in an article by Mark Brunswick in the Star Tribune web site at:

My thanks to newsletter reader Polly Walker for telling me about this story.

CBC (English-language) and Radio-Canada (French) Music Library Closing, CD’s to be Digitised, Destroyed

It is sad news but I am not surprised. The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is facing huge funding cuts from the government and increasing costs. The results include massive staff and production cuts. Rapidly developing technological developments are also driving the changes. The broadcaster, with its stations across the country has, over the decades, amassed a vast collection of recorded music and other artefacts. In 2012, and subsequent to a massive budget cut, the CBC began a policy of digitizing its collection to save space and storage costs, even as a move began to sell off buildings and move into smaller quarters. An executive with the project said, there will be no room in the new building for storage of the library.

Not only are CDs to be digitized and the destroyed, older records are to be destroyed without being converted to digital formats at all. The records to be destroyed include approximately 70,000 old 78rpm discs. Few of these were ever re-recorded on LP, and almost none of these exist on CD.

You Never Know What You Will Find on eBay!

For years I have used a service of eBay that allows me to specify search terms for items being sold. I can specify the search terms once, and then eBay sends me an email notice whenever any new item is added to the online auction service with words in the item’s listing that match my search terms. I started doing that perhaps ten years ago or longer, and occasionally it has paid off.

I have often found items for sale that I would not have known about otherwise without manually checking every few days. I have purchased a number of “good finds” over the years, including old family history books, some CD-ROM disks containing genealogy information and county histories, and more. This week, it paid off big time!