Creating Local History Community Archives,
& Protecting Archives from Climate Change
by Vicki Hahn
SGS – Stateline Genealogy Sorter.
(Also see article from Pacific Standard Magazine on Protecting Archives from Climate Change below.)
We were very lucky at the Beloit Public Library that a recent major water leak did not affect our Genealogy/Local History Collection area. As one Stateline Genealogy @ Beloit Public Library member said, “At least WE didn’t get any water damage.” This water damage is not due to climate change, but a valid reminder of how vulnerable these archives are.
The recent prolific spring rains, and potential for flooding may be a good opportunity to pay attention to how you have your own personal valuable genealogy papers, artifacts, and books stored. Years ago, the only things I cared about retrieving after a major house fire, were my purse and my photograph albums. I have had items damaged by a furnace humidifier leaking, children recording over my Grandmother’s family history interview, dogs teething, etc. Life happens – protect your history items. Imagine anything happening.
The whole 1/4 of the Beloit Public Library, next to our Collection, was roped off for the month of April due to water damage from H-VACs leaking water overnight from the second floor. The HVACs are not over the Genealogy/Local History Collection, but part of that was roped off also as the rehab crew worked. The end of the Mystery Fiction Collection, and the Riverside Meeting Room were both inundated. The Library did lose 450 books from the Mystery Collection. All of the furniture, carpet and ceiling in the Riverside Room had to be replaced, and some shelving ends. That being said, we were lucky.
And, I am continuing to add uniquely valuable items to our Local History Collection.
I have just gotten the go-ahead to start (retroactively to April 2015) get our Beloit Daily Newspapers microfilmed again, once we get funding from our Library FABL Friend at Beloit Library, or Foundation groups. The Beloit Daily News BDN cut paying for supplying the microfilms to Beloit Public Library and the Beloit College Archives Library at that time. (This may take a few years. It will include a request to purchase a second microfilm machine, as our old one has failed for good.) I will also ask for the purchase of a third microfilm storage cabinet. Sooner than that, we will move a third Local History lateral pamphlet file cabinet into our Genealogy/local History area.
Thanks to specialized Library Volunteers – we will soon have a complete Index to Book of Beloit (1 , 1836 – 1936) by Linda Smith, which I will be getting into print. (There has been an incomplete index available, but the new complete one will make searching so much more thorough.) Linda also recently created a complete Index to Book of Beloit II, 1936 – 1986, which we have as a book in our Genealogy/Local History Collection.
The Beloit College Archives has a whole card catalog full of indexed cards to supplement the original Book of Beloit I. I will have them compare our volunteer’s work to see if they have anything in addition (doubtful:) ) I will share the finished Index digitally with the other local history organizations – Beloit Historical Society, Rock County Historical Society, South Beloit Historical Society Wheeler House, Hedberg Public Library Janesville, and Beloit College Archives Library.
Phyllis DeGraff, another volunteer, has just finished creating an Index to, and digitally retyping a local history by Beloiter “Woodrow Wilson Memoirs”. This was from a typed manuscript that we received from Custom Book Binding (local publisher) . The manuscript is waiting my review, and later the publisher will give the Library some finished books once they are published.
Two other big local history collection additions are in the works (maybe done in a year?) Monette Bebow-Reinhard (a new volunteer) has started to transcribe the 1976 Beloit – Black Oral History CDs. These are the interviews of several relatives/immigrants recruited from Pontotoc, Mississippi to work at Fairbanks Morse in Beloit Wisconsin. These interviews have never been fully transcribed and will be a valuable printed resource on the important (local history) African American Up North Migration and Jim Crow experience. The CDs can be checked out at the Library. There are also on-line digital audio recordings that you can listen to on the WHS Wisconsin Historical Society website for free.
Fred Burwell, from Beloit College Archives Library, shared this:
“Here is a link to their main page on the oral histories:
If you click on any name at the side, it will lead you to a table of contents for that particular recording and you can click on a further link to the actual sound. For some of the people there are multiple links to more than one recording.
There’s also a transcript for the Rubie Bond recording, although my guess is that it is not a complete transcript: https://www.wisconsinhistory.org/pdfs/lessons/EDU-LessonPlans-RubieBondOralHistory-Transcript.pdf
I am glad to hear that you have a volunteer interested in transcribing these incredibly valuable recordings. I would love to have the transcripts! They would be really useful for students and other researchers.”
Another project in the works, is a coincidence of timing. We will have the work of a veteran on Vietnam Veteran Obituaries (donated to the Hedberg Public Library) in our Beloit People and Families Bookcase under “Veterans”. And our Library Page, Susan Park, has gathered cemetery information as part of her long efforts to honor fellow military veterans while doing general volunteering work for FindaGrave.com . An excellent photographer, and thorough researcher, Susan is working on creating books of all military burials in the Rock County cemeteries. In awhile, she will have her “Rock County Veterans in Oakwood Cemetery” book completed for our collection. Later she will have her “Rock County Veterans in Eastlawn Cemetery” book completed.
Susan recently won the award from a local Rock County veterans group – Montford Point Marine Post.:
“This past Saturday I was presented the Homer Hempstead Humanitarian Service Award by the National Montford Point Marine Association, Chapter 41. An Award for Veterans, presented to Veterans, for serving Veterans. The award was based on all the cemetery work I have done in Veterans Sections of our cemeteries. I have photographed and created Memorial Pages for over 782 Veterans graves. I strongly feel no Veteran should be lost or forgotten.
Freedom is not Free.
Simply put, it’s Veterans taking care of Veterans.”
(On left – Major General Anderson, on the right Susan Park.)
And finally, a new book on Beloit by http://squarepegbookshop.com/product/growing-up-in-beloit/ . Bob has been coming to the Library for years to research aspects of his articles in our Genealogy/Local History Collection.Growing Up in Beloit” was donated to the Library. These are stories based on the articles that he wrote for years in the Beloit Daily News, Savoy Section.
How to Protect Rare Books & Manuscripts From the Ravages of Climate Change
(Vicki’s note – on-line article from Pacific Standard magazine, thanks to Ron Zarnick.)
Almost all are at risk of degradation caused by projected temperature changes, humidity, sea level rise, storm surges, and precipitation, according to new research on United States collections by a group of archivists and climate scientists.
…”The No. 1 thing you have to do to keep rare archival material from growing mildew or falling apart is to maintain a constant temperature and humidity,” Tansey says. “If the atmosphere outside is constantly hot one day, cold the next, that means you’re having to use that much more energy to keep your building at a consistent temperature for your collection, which is often contributing to climate change itself.”
…There are measures that archivists can take to protect their collections, including identifying opportunities to relocate temporarily in the event of a disaster, or revamping storage facilities in light of local risks.”