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Press Release
September 19, 2005

National Archives Offers Assistance to Gulf States

Washington, DC…Archivist of the United States Allen Weinstein announced today several initiatives to aid in the recovery of original records in the states of Mississippi, Alabama, and Louisiana that have been affected by Hurricane Katrina.

In making this announcement, the Archivist said: "The potential loss of information that directly affects the lives of people in these states is staggering. The loss of our collective memory of this region, 'identity loss' in other words, is at stake. Property deeds; birth certificates; personal papers; information documenting the rights and entitlements of citizens, such as social security and veterans benefits, are all at risk. Records found in Federal, state, local and cultural sites must be rescued.

As 'first preservers', the National Archives is committed to being a partner, along with the major archival organizations, in helping assess, recover and preserve these irreplaceable records. We are sending both financial and human resources to aid in this disaster and will continue to offer assistance as long as it is needed. Archives staff has already spent hundreds hours working with Federal agencies and our partners in state and local government to scope out this effort and begin to identify and recover records. In the coming days and weeks, working with our partners in the states and the Federal agencies, we are committed to spending thousands more."

Current initiatives include:

  • At the request of the Department of Health and Human Services, the National Archives will provide a senior conservator to assist the State of Louisiana Medical Examiner and the Orleans Parish Coroner in providing document recovery advice and support.

  • The Archivist of the United States in his capacity as Chairman of the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC) has authorized emergency grants of up to $25,000 from FY2005 grant funds to the State Archives in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama for disaster assessment and response activities identified in consultation with their State Historical Records Advisory Boards.

  • NHPRC will consider additional grants as needed per affected state of up to $100,000 from FY2006 when these funds are appropriated. The NHPRC also is working closely with the leadership of the Council of State Archivists and the Society of American Archivists to identify other funds and sources of support.

  • The National Archives is working with FEMA to identify avenues for the affected states to quickly obtain emergency funds for recovery and preservation efforts of documents.

  • The National Archives is continuing dialogue with Federal and state officials to assess their needs.

Initiatives already underway: The National Archives has:

  • Aided the victims of this disaster - veterans and retired civil servants from the Gulf Coast region by providing expedited access to copies of their veterans and civil service records so that they can establish or re-establish their personal information and obtain relief benefits.

  • Developed a web presence for Federal agencies and courts, state and local governments, cultural institutions, and the general public which contains recovery and preservation guidance and information. www.archives.gov

  • Offered Federal agencies with offices in the affected regions advice and assistance on records recovery issues, emergency disposal and other records management issues through the National Archives headquarters and the Atlanta and Fort Worth regional archives.

  • Consulted with Federal agencies concerning classified national security information that may be affected by the hurricane.

  • Delegated authority to Federal agencies to destroy contaminated records that constitute a menace to health, life, or property if those records have a temporary disposition of 10 years or less and if the information from the records is likely captured, at least in part, in other sources.

  • Utilized National Archives professional preservation and records management staff from across the nation, to provide advice and assistance in the region.

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For further information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs Office at 202-501-5526.

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