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Time and Tide: Coastal Records Recovery

On September 22, 2015, in Archives, by Timothy
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This post is part of an ongoing series, “Time and Tide: Ten Years after Katrina.” Special thanks to Preston Everett, Archives and Records Services, for writing this post.

MDAH staff was able to recover some record books and other materials for freezing.  Freezing records stops the growth of mold and mildew, and gives staff time to find the proper conservator.  A freezer truck was rented in Gulfport and arrangements made for a storage freezer in Jackson to hold records from Bay St. Louis City Hall, Waveland City Hall, Secretary of State’s Office, Pass Christian City Hall, Pass Christian Historical Society and the O’hr-Okeefe Museum.  Once the records were stabilized they were sent to a conservator for cleaning and preservation.

Above:  September 15, 2005 Archives and Records Services division assessment teams and other Department employees’ recovered approximately 52 volumes of Bay St. Louis Mayor’s Council Minute Books.

Above:  Ann Frellsen and Bill Hanna clean minute books with a 50/50 alcohol and water solution before placing them in the archives van for transport.

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Time and Tide: Assessment Teams

On September 18, 2015, in Archives, by Timothy
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This post is part of an ongoing series, “Time and Tide: Ten Years after Katrina.” Special thanks to Preston Everett, Archives and Records Services, for writing this post.

By the week of September 12, 2005, the MDAH Archives and Record Services Division received assistance from Ann Frellsen, staff member of the Preservation Office at Emory University, and Christine Wiseman, the Preservation Services Manager at Georgia Archives. They joined the Archives and Records Services Division assessment teams working at public libraries, county courthouses, city governments, museums, and historical societies on the Coast. The teams also made recommendations for cleaning, immediate preservation such as freezing or drying materials, and ways to protect employees from mold when handling materials.

Jackson County

Harrison County

Hancock County

The assessment teams wrote conservation reports and took photographs for each site. The reports included findings, salvaged materials, and recommendations to be used by the necessary staff.

Bay St. Louis City Hall conservation report

Bay St. Louis City Hall conservation report

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Time and Tide: Old Spanish Fort Museum Assessment

On September 15, 2015, in Archives, by Timothy
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This post is part of an ongoing series, “Time and Tide: Ten Years after Katrina.” Special thanks to Preston Everett, Archives and Records Services, for writing this post.

Front of the Old Spanish Fort Museum building, September 12, 2005.

Front of the Old Spanish Fort Museum building, September 12, 2005.

September 12, 2005—two weeks after Katrina—the MDAH Archives and Records Services Division created damage assessment teams to assist public libraries, county courthouses, city governments, museums, and historical societies on the Coast.  The first team went to the Old Spanish Fort Museum in Pascagoula.  The museum is three miles from the beach and its backyard is the Pascagoula River.  The river backed up from Katrina’s surge, flooding everything in the area.  The water rose up to four feet in the museum damaging the building and its artifacts.

Due to the wide-spread devastation no recovery or damage assessments had been done at the museum.  Artifact cases were still sealed and frequently contained water resulting in mold, mildew, rust and other problems.  Many of the museum’s artifacts were irretrievably damaged.

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Time and Tide: The Storm Arrives in Jackson

On September 14, 2015, in Archives, by Timothy
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This post is part of an ongoing series, “Time and Tide: Ten Years after Katrina.” Special thanks to Preston Everett, Archives and Records Services, for writing this post.

The majority of MDAH Archives and Records Services Division staff works at the William F. Winter Archives and History Building in Jackson, Mississippi.  On Friday, August 26, 2005, MDAH employees went home for the weekend thinking Katrina wasn’t going to hit Mississippi directly since the hurricane was veering to the west.  Monday the 29 was a very different story. Hurricane Katrina made landfall as a category three at 125 mph.  When it arrived in central Mississippi, it had weakened to a category one hurricane at 95 mph.

Staff made preparations for the hurricane by moving everything away from the windows and covering furniture and equipment with Visqueen.  By mid-morning, heartbreaking and disturbing stories began reaching us.  The New Orleans levees were not holding, and the Superdome’s roof was tearing apart.  While Winter Building employees were making preparations, the world outside the building showed signs Katrina was close.   The Image and Sound section employees took this video around 10:45 a.m.   The light fixture fell one hour later, missing the building.

MDAH Light Fixture Katrina

 

 

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Owner Mary Helen Schaeffer and volunteer engineer Beth Nathan stand in front of Schaeffer’s damaged house on Scenic Drive.

Time and Tide: “Thanks Y’all”

On September 11, 2015, in Archives, by Timothy
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This post is part of an ongoing series, “Time and Tide: Ten Years after Katrina.” Special thanks to Jennifer Baughn, Historic Preservation Division, for writing this post.

As we finished up our damage assessment survey in mid-October 2005, we realized that in the chaos after the storm, when private properties were being demolished with FEMA funding and local preservationists were dealing with their own damaged properties, MDAH would need to take the lead for preservation. Many preservationists around the country had called to see how they could help, and we had been in discussions with national preservation organizations, especially the National Trust for Historic Preservation and the Association for Preservation Technology. With their help, we began preparing for teams of volunteer architects and engineers to spend a week at a time on the Coast and meet individually with property owners. We hoped this personal attention from professionals who understood historic structures would help overwhelmed homeowners begin stabilizing and repairing their damaged buildings.

Our first small volunteer team, led by Chief Architectural Historian Richard Cawthon, included Mississippi preservation architects Sam Kaye and Michael Fazio, and was on the ground from September 20 through 23, 2005. With each succeeding team, MDAH staff and the volunteers themselves established a method for covering the necessary territory while still being able to meet and spend time with each property owner. For damaged properties where no owner was available, we wrote a letter with helpful suggestions for stabilization and repair, and inserted it into a Ziploc bag which we stapled to the doorway of the house. Owners who found these letters and called us back received a follow-up visit, and then a much more detailed letter summing up the meeting. Copies of all the letters, photos, and reports of the volunteer teams have been filed in the Historic Resources Inventory at the Historic Preservation Division.

Early teams stayed in the homes of preservationists on the Coast and in a house near Purvis, sometimes requiring an hour of travel to and from the Coast. By November 2005, MDAH, with help from the National Trust, Mississippi Main Street, and the Mississippi Heritage Trust, was able to secure a house in downtown Biloxi, called Preservation House, which became our base for the next several years.

This volunteer phase of MDAH’s Katrina response succeeded well beyond our expectations and helped keep many historic buildings standing long enough to eventually be repaired. Ultimately, between September 2005 and Memorial Day 2006, sixteen teams spent a week each on the Coast, surveying 450 badly damaged buildings and meeting with scores of property owners from Pearlington to Pascagoula and every city in between. These generous professionals gave of their time, money, and skills, and they helped save many historic buildings on the Coast.

Preservation Volunteer Teams:

  • September 20–23, 2005: Mississippi Preservationists
  • October 5–8, 2005: Texas Historical Commisssion
  • October 10–16, 2005: Association for Preservation Technology (APT) #1
  • November 7–11, 2005: Arkansas Historic Preservation Program
  • November 28–Dec. 7, 2005: Savannah College of Art and Design #1
  • November 29–Dec. 6, 2005: APT #2
  • December 5–10, 2005: Colonial Williamsburg #1
  • January 23–29, 2006: APT #3
  • February 12–18, 2006: APT #4
  • March 19–26, 2006: APT #5
  • March 20–25, 2006: Savannah College of Art and Design #2
  • May 7–13, 2006: APT #6
  • May 14–20, 2006: Colonial Williamsburg #2
  • May 21–26, 2006: APT #7
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