Incalculable Loss as Rio de Janeiro’s 200-year-old National Museum is Gutted by a Huge Fire

This has nothing to do with genealogy. However, it does serve as a reminder that any collection, even a genealogy archive, is fragile and could disappear at any time.

Brazil’s Museu Nacional housed artifacts from Egypt, Greco-Roman art, and some of the first fossils found in Brazil. Yesterday, the museum was almost totally destroyed by fire and much of its archive of 20 million items is believed to have been destroyed.

The South Carolina State Library is Working on a Project to Digitize Federal Civil War Documents

The South Carolina State Library is working with the Confederate Relic Room and Military Museum in Columbia, SC, to scan and digitize hundreds of documents from the Colin J. McRae Papers, Huse Audit Series. Huse was a Confederate purchasing agent for the breakaway states’ Ordinance Department in Britain.”

“It’s a collection of original invoices and correspondences that list goods and services purchased from England by the Confederate military,” Digital Curation and Preservation Librarian Jessica Dame said. “The goods and services include things like weapons, cloth for uniforms, food, medication, freight.”

Racing against Time in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, to save 300 Years of Land Records

The handwriting of William Penn, the founding father of Pennsylvania, has weathered the ravages of time for 334 years, most recently buried amid reams of paper inside the Bucks County storage facility in Doylestown Township. His handwriting and that of many others in the deeds of early Pennsylvania are deteriorating on frayed, yellowed, mold-stained pages, their ink faded and vanishing. Some tomes produced after the Civil War were printed on paper whose wood pulp was supplemented by cloth recycled from Union uniforms. Some of the records may soon be unreadable.

Kofile Technologies, a company that specializes in preserving historical documents, has entered into a contract with the county to treat and rebind 700 of the volumes, records from 1684 to the late 1800s that also include emancipation documents for slaves and other miscellaneous recordings.

You can Nominate a North Carolina Newspaper to be Digitized

The following is an introduction to an article written by the North Carolina Digital Heritage Center:

It’s time to announce our annual round of microfilmed newspaper digitization! As in previous years, we’re asking cultural heritage institutions in the state to nominate papers from their communities to be digitized. We’re especially interested in:

  • newspapers published 1923 or later,
  • newspapers that are not currently available in digital form elsewhere online, and/or
  • newspapers covering underrepresented regions or communities.

If you’re interested in nominating a paper and you work at a cultural heritage institution that qualifies as a partner, here’s what to do:

Full instructions are given at


South Dakota Historical Society Receives Grant To Put More Historical Newspapers Online

The following press release was written by the South Dakota Historical Society:

PIERRE — The South Dakota State Historical Society-Archives in Pierre was awarded a third round of grant funding in the amount of $280,200 from the National Endowment for the Humanities to continue digitizing historical newspapers.

The project is part of Chronicling America, a Library of Congress initiative to develop an online database of select historical newspapers from around the United States. As part of the grant the State Historical Society-Archives will digitize approximately 100 rolls of microfilmed newspapers pre-dating 1922 over two years.

New Jersey Digital Newspaper Project Receives Additional $219,609 Grant to Digitize Historical NJ Newspapers

The New Jersey Digital Newspaper Project (NJDNP) has received an additional round of funding in the amount of $219,609 to digitize historical New Jersey newspapers and make them available to the public via the Library of Congress’s Chronicling America website, the National Endowment for the Humanities has announced. The NJDNP—a collaboration between Rutgers University Libraries, the New Jersey State Archives, and the New Jersey State Library—is part of the National Digital Newspaper Program, a long-term effort to develop a searchable online database of U.S. newspapers from all 50 states.

Since the New Jersey Digital Newspaper Project began in 2016, over 100,000 pages of historical newspapers have been scanned and digitized from microfilm originally held by the New Jersey State Archives.

You can read more in an article in the Rutgers University web site at:

Washington State Library Awarded $280,000 to Digitize Historic Newspapers

With a new $280,000 National Endowment for the Humanities grant, the Office of Secretary of (Washington) State Kim Wyman will break fresh ground in its nationally-recognized project of digitizing historic newspapers. The grant, announced August 8, will enable the Washington State Library’s Washington Digital Newspaper Project to add 100,000 pages of culturally and historically significant newspapers from Asian-American, African-American, and World War II-era publications to its free public archives.

The Washington Digital Newspaper Project is one of only four Washington projects selected for the first awards of the new Infrastructure and Capacity-Building Challenge Grant program, which announced $43.1 million in awards for 218 projects nationwide.

You can read more in a news release from the Office of Secretary of (Washington) State Kim Wyman at

U.S. National Archives Recalls Fire That Claimed Millions of Military Personnel Files

The National Archives and Records Administration recently marked the 45th anniversary of a devastating fire at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri, that destroyed approximately 16–18 million Official Military Personnel Files (OMPF) documenting the service history of former military personnel discharged from 1912 to 1964.

Shortly after midnight on July 12, 1973, a fire was reported at the NPRC’s military personnel records building in St. Louis, Missouri. The fire burned out of control for 22 hours and it took two days before firefighters were able to re-enter the building. Due to the extensive damage, investigators were never able to determine the source of the fire.

Conserving Sudanese Cultural Heritage

I doubt if this will directly help many readers of this newsletter. After all, probably very few readers of an English-language genealogy newsletter have Sudanese ancestry. However, I will suggest it is an excellent example of preserving documents and photographic material for future generations. Perhaps we all can learn from this example.

A two-year project aims to conserve and digitise a range of written and photographic material held in archives in Sudan. Decades of conflict in the region has resulted in a failing economy and Sudanese archives are now under threat due to under investment and poor protection measures. Much of the cultural heritage and practices recorded in present-day physical archives are disappearing as traditional life is eroded by population movement.

A large volume of at-risk content will be captured, including 100,000 maps, fragile photographs (in excess of 10 million) and AV materials documenting disappearing cultures and customs.

You can read more in an article in the British Council web site at:

My thanks to newsletter reader Richard J Heaton for telling me about this worthwhile project.

Caribou (Maine) Library Has Archives Dating Back to the Late 19th Century

An article by Christopher Bouchard in TheCounty web site caught my eye. He describes the services of the library and focuses on the ongoing digitization effort of old newspapers being conducted by the library staff. The article caught my eye because it (1.) described a valuable archive, (2.) described the digitization of old newspapers and documents, (3.) describes the library’s project to use imaging software to record digital images of physical items from the past, and (4.) because I used to live in Caribou a long time ago.

NOTE: When I lived there, I thought Caribou, Maine was the coldest place on earth. About a year later, the U.S. military sent me to a 15-month assignment in Goose Bay, Labrador, Canada. I changed my mind about which location had the claim to being the coldest.

There are well over a thousand newspapers stored in the building, and Caribou Public Library Director Anastasia Weigle said one of her main objectives as an archivist is to keep the content of those papers alive via digitizing. About 2,776 pages of the Aroostook Republican from 1880 to 1899 are currently available in digital format at and can be browsed by date of publication or via keyword search.

Saving Aberdeen’s History turns up Gems, Mysteries

This is a follow-up to articles I published earlier at and at and also at about a disastrous fire at the Aberdeen (Washington) Museum of History. The Grays Harbor Genealogical Society research library was housed in the same building and suffered a major loss as well. The building was destroyed.

Volunteers have been working to rescue as much of the contents as possible. Archivists have spent 787 hours (so far) in a high-intensity, low-tech effort to save thousands of soaked and soot-covered prints, negatives, film and even VHS tapes. The archivists hauled out 119 office boxes filled with Aberdeen history to a storage building the size of half a football field, with ceilings at least 30 feet high.

Building Demolition Halted at Former Quaker Graveyard

Developers have been forced to halt the demolition of a former social club that was built on top of a Quaker burial ground in Roundhill, Hampshire, England. The project was to build eight homes and a shop – but strict conditions had been set before a construction permit was issued. Work came to a halt when the site was found to be a former Quaker graveyard.

A New Forest District Council spokesman said: “The site is located in a conservation area and is of historical and archaeological significance.”

Follow-up: The U.K. National Archives is Investigating the Use of Blockchain for Records Sharing

I wrote about this on June 7 at Now an article by Alex Green in The National Archives Blog provides more information. Alex Green writes:

“Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology which is both tamper-resistant and decentralised. The ARCHANGEL project is creating a prototype using this technology which aims to enable archives to generate and register hashes of documents (similar to unique digital signatures) into a permissioned blockchain (in other words, one which can only be added to by authorised organisations). Where the record has been legitimately changed, hashes of the content, alongside hashes of the code used to make the change, can also be registered on the blockchain. This would mean that whenever a digital record is modified, an audit trail is created and we are able to know exactly how a document has been edited.

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.