Preservation

The National Endowment for the Humanities Announces 2019 Awards for the National Digital Newspaper Program, adding partners in Rhode Island, Virgin Islands and Wyoming

Old newspapers often are valuable tools for genealogists and historians. Not only will you find birth announcements, marriage announcements, and obituaries, but you will occasionally find information about the activities and interests of ancestors. This normally is information not found in public vital records. You also will always learn about the world in which these ancestors lived and the events that shaped their lives. With that in mind, here is an announcement from the National Endowment for the Humanities:

Washington State Archives and Library Awarded for Saving Artifacts from Aberdeen Armory Fire

When the Aberdeen (Washington) Museum of History burned down in June 2018, a team from the Washington State Archives and the Washington State Library played a crucial role in rushing to rescue and restore thousands of historic artifacts, historical documents and photographs from the basement archives before water and soot damage destroyed them. For several weeks, staff from the Archives and State Library, as well as volunteers, cleaned and dried each and every photo and artifact from the basement, and State Archivist Steve Excell estimated 98 or 99 percent of all the items they recovered were saved.

Leaking Dome at National Records of Scotland Causes Massive Damage to Precious Historical Documents

National Records of Scotland (NRS) on Princes Street

Here is another case where digitizing copies of important documents and storing the digital images in multiple “off site” locations is always a good idea. Some of Scotland’s precious and irreplaceable historical records have been damaged after torrents of rain leaked in through a dome which has needed repair work for a number of years.

The damage to a host of documents, including marriage and death certificates dating from 1800, occurred last Tuesday night at the National Records of Scotland (NRS), following hours of torrential rain and thunder storms swept large parts of Scotland.

Former employees said the dome, at the back of the building, had been leaking for many years but that despite it being reported on many occasions by a large number of staff it was not given priority for repair.

 

Florida Holocaust Museum working to Digitize Entire Museum Collection of over 20,000 Items

The Florida Holocaust Museum in St. Petersburg has over 20,000 items, including objects, artifacts, photos and documents in its collection. The Museum is working hard at digitizing all the items and making them available online.

“It’s one of our really critical purposes, is to take the documents and the artifacts and the objects we’ve been lucky to be given by survivors or family of survivors or liberators and to not only to make sure that they’re preserved for the future but look for ways to share them,” said Elizabeth Gelman, executive director of the museum. “So what we’re doing is we are digitizing the museum’s complete collection. So at a certain point, we’ll be able to have it so that everyone will be able to find a way into our collection and be able to do research.”

Archaeologists Develop Interactive Map for Daughters of Zion Cemetery in Charlottesville, Virginia

A new tool is helping people learn more about a historic African American cemetery in Charlottesville, Virginia. Archaeologists have developed an interactive map for the Daughters of Zion Cemetery. The preservers of the Daughters of Zion Cemetery said that new tool will help them in their efforts to tell the history of one of Charlottesville’s oldest cemeteries.

“The mapper is extremely helpful for people who do have markers – if they have descendants who are trying to find out where their ancestors are buried,” said said Edwina St. Rose’s, one of the preserves of Daughters of Zion Cemetery.

Decades of History Could Be ‘Erased from Australia’s Memory’ as Tape Machines Disappear

The National Archives of Australia has a problem. You may also have the same problem, although hopefully in a smaller scale.

According to an article by James Elton in the Australian Broadcasting Corporation web site at https://ab.co/31XGcCK, Australia’s memory institutions are racing to digitise their magnetic tape collections before the year 2025, when archivists around the world expect it will become almost impossible to find working tape playback machines.

PHOTO: Old recording equipment at the Australian National Archives. (ABC News)

The tapes include audio recordings, video, and reels of digitised information. Approximately 130,000 hours of audio and video held on magnetic tape by Australia’s National Archives alone and undoubtedly there are many more hours of tapes presently stored at other government agencies, various libraries, and educational institutions as well. If not converted to modern digital storage methods, these tapes will become unusable simply because suitable playback equipment will no longer be available within a few years.

Here are the issues facing the National Archives of Australia:

Australian Joint Copying Project

The microfilm produced by the Australian Joint Copying Project has long been a first stop for those researching local or family history. The 10,400 microfilm reels however have been difficult to access even for those living near libraries holding the microfilm let alone those in rural areas. The content itself can often be dense and difficult to locate relevant information.

The National Library of Australia has begun a new project to address these problems. Thanks to the Australian Public Service Modernisation Fund the AJCP Online Project will digitise the 7.5 million records captured on the original AJCP microfilm, delivering them online free of charge to all.

Details may be found at: https://tinyurl.com/y3f3wq8z.

Newly Recovered Ground Zero Photos Show Why You Should Back Up your CD-Recordable Disks Now: Photo CDs Don’t Last Forever

An article by Sean Hollister in The Verge web site at http://bit.ly/2RlRD1V describes a problem that every genealogist would like to avoid. In fact, it is easily avoidable if you are already aware of the problem and if you have already taken steps to side-step this technical issue.

When comedian and activist Jon Stewart gave an impassioned speech before Congress to seek ongoing aid for 9/11 first responders, it inspired Internet Archive software curator and digital preservationist Jason Scott to share something timely with the world as well: a newly discovered cache of photos from one of the workers who toiled away at Ground Zero, and who’d saved thousands of those photos on writeable CD-ROM disks.

But Scott says he wasn’t actually able to preserve all of those photos, because of the way they were stored. Many of the images stored on writeable CD disks were unreadable! Indeed, CD-recordable disks made on personal computers do not last forever. In this case, they didn’t even last 8 years!

Tornado Outbreaks Reminder to Make Smartphones Disaster-Ready

The recent news services have described all the tornado disasters of recent weeks. Last year it was the huge fires in California and elsewhere. Let me ask you a question: What would happen if a tornado, fire, or other disaster destroys your home and all of your genealogy records that are kept inside that home?

Obviously, any disaster in the home will create havoc in your life. Your genealogy records probably won’t be the first thing you think of. However, once you deal with the higher-priority issues, such as food, water, and shelter, you will eventually realize the loss of possibly years of your hard work and genealogy research. Luckily, it is easy to avoid the loss of genealogy records, family photographs, insurance documents, and much, much more if you make preparations in advance of a disaster.

An article by Madeline Purdue in the USA Today web site offers some practical advice, such as:

Many Items in Rhode Island’s Archives are at Risk of Damage

“Many items in the Rhode Island archives, including the state’s copy of the Bill of Rights, are at risk of damage because they’re kept in a building that’s not meant for preserving rare, historic documents, according to an assessment released Tuesday.

“There isn’t enough space to store or exhibit them properly, and water, light, dust and atmospheric pollution pose a risk to many of the items, according to the report by the Northeast Document Conservation Center. The collection has been housed since 1990 in a rented office building in a flood zone in downtown Providence.”

You can read the details in an Associated Press article by Jennifer Mcdermott at http://bit.ly/2HKIc9j.

New Transcription Workflow: African American Civil War Soldiers

The following announcement was written by the African American Civil War Soldiers team:

African American Civil War Soldiers recently launched a new workflow to complete the transcription of the military records of all Black men who fought for the Union army, beginning with the famous 54th and 55th Massachusetts regiments. Read on to see how you can get involved!

Last year Zooniverse volunteers transcribed the records of a sample of 40,000 members of the United States Colored Troops (USCT), the African American soldiers who fought for their freedom in the American Civil War. Due to the enthusiasm and commitment of these volunteers we completed the sample ahead of schedule. Today we are launching a new site to transcribe the records of the rest of the USCT and make them all freely available to scholars, genealogists and members of the public. We have divided the remaining soldiers based on their state of enlistment, and will be launching each new batch of records state-by-state.

Preserving Pennsylvania’s Oldest Historical Documents

“History may not repeat itself, but the present often rhymes with the past.” And in order to understand the past, preserving old documents and records is key.

“Cumberland County archivists recently received a grant to preserve documents that are older than the United States. These records include pieces from signers of the Declaration of Independence, among other works of historical significance that give a glimpse of Pennsylvania’s past.”

You can read more and listen to a podcast in an article by Kate Sweigart in the WITF.ORG web site at: http://www.witf.org.

America is Losing its Memory

I will suggest that an article by T.J. Stiles should be required reading by all Americans. (T.J. Stiles is a member of the governing boards of the Society of American Historians and the Organization of American Historians. He received the 2016 Pulitzer Prize for History, the 2010 Pulitzer Prize for Biography, and the 2009 National Book Award for Nonfiction.)

Stiles starts by writing:

“America is losing its memory. The National Archives and Records Administration is in a budget crisis. More than a resource for historians or museum of founding documents, NARA stands at the heart of American democracy. It keeps the accounts of our struggles and triumphs, allows the people to learn what their government has done and is doing and it maintains records that fill in family histories. Genealogy researchers depend on it, as do journalists filing Freedom of Information Act requests. If Congress doesn’t save it, we all will suffer.”

You can read the full article in the Bangor Daily News‘ web site at: http://bit.ly/2WzLGjL.

New Online Records for an Old Cemetery in Sunbury, Pennsylvania

It’s now easier to look for relatives who are buried at the Sunbury Cemetery. The cemetery’s records are being put online. There are burials dating back to the 1700s, including people who fought in the American Revolution. Two United States congressmen are also buried there.

The effort to transcribe the records into an online database is just beginning. Sunbury Mayor Kurt Karlovich is looking for people who are interested in cemeteries and history to help with the effort.

You can read more and also watch a video in an article by Nikki Krize in the WNEO News web site at https://wnep.com/2019/04/23/new-records-at-old-cemetery-in-sunbury/.

The cemetery records that have already been placed online may be found at: http://www.sunburypa.org/sunbury-city-cemetery.html.

Fire Destroys Decades of Archives at a Tennessee Social Justice Center

A fire at a Tennessee social justice center that trained the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. has destroyed a building and decades of archives. Nobody was injured. New Market Volunteer Fire Department Capt. Sammy Solomon says the building was burned to the ground by the time crews arrived.

News outlets report officials are investigating what started the fire Friday morning at the Highlander Education and Research Center.

You can read more and view photos of the fire and of the historic Highlander Education and Research Center at: http://bit.ly/2YDuOu2.

Spared From the Shredder (for Now): ‘Priceless’ Bank Records of Old New York

The New York Times has published an interesting article by Jim Dwyer concerning the preservation of valuable records from New York City. A a shredding truck was about to shred a rare, powerful trove of the history of working-class New York: the archives of the Bowery Savings Bank, which was founded in 1834 for the benefit of its depositors. These records could be valuable to genealogists, historians, property title search professionals, and probably many others. The papers were among the materials being cleaned out of the basement of a Capital One branch in Brooklyn that is closing next month.

Four-alarm Fire Blazes Through St. Louis Museum of Rare Documents

Here is another reason you want to make digital copies of every document that is of value to you or to anyone else and then save the digital copies off site where they are safe from disasters in your home or office.

St. Louis, Missouri, firefighters responded Tuesday to a massive fire at a museum of rare documents, the cause of which is not yet known.

Will your valuable documents, pictures, and more end up like this collection?

How To Preserve Old Family Letters

The MyHeritage Blog has an interesting article about preserving old letters:

“If you are fortunate enough to have a cache of old family letters, you are sitting on a gold mine. Letter writing has gone by the wayside since the invention of the telephone, e-mail, texting, Twitter, and Facebook, just to name a few ways of modern communication. Those old letters in your genealogy records collection should be preserved for future generations. Whether you have 100 letters or just one, they are important to your family history and add to your family story.

It is the First Day of the Month: Back Up Your Genealogy Files

BackUpYourGenealogyFilesIt is the first day of the month. It’s time to back up your genealogy files. Then test your backups!

Actually, you can make backups at any time. However, it is easier and safer if you have a specific schedule. The first day of the month is easy to remember, so I would suggest you back up your genealogy files at least on the first day of every month, if not more often.

Israeli Lunar Lander Contains a 30-million-page Archive of Human Civilization built to last Billions of Years

I have written many times about preserving documents for use by future genealogists. I have often written why digital documents can last much longer than the equivalent information on paper. Last week, a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket carried an Israeli-made spacecraft named Beresheet beyond the grasp of Earth’s gravity and sent it on its way to the surface of the moon. On board Beresheet is a specially designed digital disc encoded with a 30-million-page archive of human civilization. The disk is expected to last billions of years into the future.

Yes, that’s BILLIONS of years. I doubt if paper will last that long.