Heritage Emergency National Task Force
Hurricane Ike Conference Call
September 23, 2008

Larry Reger of Heritage Preservation convened the call and requested updates on hurricane damage by state, as well as information on current funding and response initiatives. There were representatives on the call from Arkansas, Illinois, Louisiana, and Texas. 


Alan Aiches, Historic Preservation Specialist at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), reported that FEMA is opening registration centers in Austin, Beaumont, Galveston, and Houston, and continues to assess damage caused by Hurricane Ike. The current focus is still on life safety and urban search and rescue, but they hope to start assessments of cultural resources by the end of the week. They are aware that there was significant flooding and a large number of structures were lost.


Texas. Gloria Meraz, Director of Communications at the Texas Library Association, reported that the Rosenberg Library in Galveston had books damaged that were in the children’s section on the first floor, and the status of the archives on the second floor is unknown. They are still waiting for concrete reports. At the University of Houston, the Architecture Library suffered some collections damage, which is currently being handled by contractors. The Texas State Library facility in Liberty, Texas, is without climate control but there are no definite reports on collections damage yet.

Gary Gibbs of the Texas Commission on the Arts stated that the museums in Houston are fine; the Commission is most concerned about resources in Orange, Beaumont, Port Arthur, and Galveston. The Grand 1894 Opera House in Galveston suffered extensive flooding, and several other cultural institutions are thought to have been affected. Gibbs also mentioned that damage reports from Hurricane Dolly (struck in July 2008) are still surfacing from south Texas.

Eric Pourchot of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works (AIC) noted that his organization performed an assessment in Galveston at the historic Ashton Villa. Furniture in the house was damaged as a result of the hurricane. AIC received a report of similar damage from the University of Texas in Galveston.

Louisiana. According to Carrie Fager, Records Management Officer at the Louisiana State Archives, there are 20 libraries closed as a result of the hurricane, and the public library in Cameron Parish was destroyed. A complete assessment is difficult at this time because the coastal parishes are not easily accessible except to residents. There is concern about mold due to power failures and the damp climate of the area.

Chip McGimsey, State Archaeologist and Director of the Louisiana Division of Archaeology, reported that there is currently an effort to visit all state historic sites and archaeological resources located in parishes affected by Gustav, as they expect a large amount of damage due to fallen trees. There have been no assessments for Hurricane Ike thus far because of the lack of accessibility to affected parishes. The Galvez Building in the state capitol complex in Baton Rouge, which houses the state’s archaeological materials and associated records, as well as other governmental offices, experienced flooding from Ike that has caused significant mold problems. 

David Schlotzhauer from the Louisiana Governor’s Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness stated that cultural resources are a high planning priority for the State of Louisiana. He provided his email address,, so that he could be contacted with questions about coordinating access to cultural resources for damage assessments.

Illinois. Neil Kelley of the Illinois State Library stated that there had been excessive rainfall in Chicago and the surrounding counties. Three libraries are known to be flooded and they are awaiting additional reports.

Arkansas. Dwain Gordon, Associate Director for Library Services and Development at the Arkansas State Library, reported that they would be monitoring for mold outbreaks; conditions for mold are perfect because of ongoing power outages and continued rains and humidity.


On-site Salvage Assistance. The American Institute for Conservation has a trained Cultural Emergency Response Team (CERT) and offers a 24-hour assistance hotline, 202-661-8068. Eric Pourchot explained that conservators will give free advice by phone and can arrange for a team to visit a site to complete damage assessments and help organize salvage. While on site AIC-CERT members will develop a list of re-housing supplies needed at the site. As funds last, supplies will also be ordered and delivered at no cost to the institution. The CERT is supported by the Institute of Museum and Library Services and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Disaster Funds. The Texas Library Association has set up a Disaster Relief Fund, which can be applied for on the Association’s Web site,

Tom Connors of the Society of American Archivists (SAA) reported that the SAA and the Society of Southwest Archivists have established a National Disaster Recovery Fund for Archives, which is accessible at

Federal Agencies. Laura Word of the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) stated that the agency is attempting to find out exactly what the needs are of humanities collections so that a determination of additional support can be made. She encourages anyone with information on damage to contact her at 202-606-8501 or

The Institute of Museum and Library Services has extended remaining deadlines in 2008 for all of its grant programs by two weeks for applicants in Presidentially-declared disaster counties. A press release is available at


Heritage Preservation has established a Hurricanes and Tropical Storms 2008 Web page ( that contains links to information resources as well as a form for submitting damage reports or requests for assistance. Any organization is encouraged to link to the page and use the damage report form to exchange information.

For collections or historic preservation-related questions, Alan Aiches of FEMA provided his contact information: 202-646-2617, He also wanted those on the call to be aware of the availability of the Guide to Navigating Federal Emergency Management Agency and Small Business Administration Disaster Aid for Cultural Institutions, which includes the new FEMA Collections Policy. Copies of this resource can be ordered or downloaded from the Heritage Preservation Web site, Alan stressed that all affected institutions—whether part of a government entity or not—should file a FEMA Request for Public Assistance as soon as possible. 

Ann Seibert of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) alerted everyone to the NARA Records Emergency Information Web page,, which has useful information as well as contacts.

Jeanne Drewes mentioned the Library of Congress’s Preservation Web page, which has similar information:

Larry Reger closed the call by reminding everyone that life safety is always the first priority, and that working with local and state agencies is vital when it comes to recovery. Since lack of power in many areas is making it difficult to complete damage assessments, the next conference call will not be convened for at least a week.

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