Having been in communication with the team lead back east I have learned a bit more about the situation on Ellis Island. The grounds and building sustained heavy damage from the storm. It took about three weeks to get the miscellaneous debris cleared away sufficiently to establish a secure working environment for a more detailed damage assessment. First rule of emergency response is not not make the situation worse by adding yourself to the casualties. So, once crews could get into the building it was discovered that sea water had indeed flooded the lower levels. Not only was the building severely compromised (as were the collections), the bigger issue at the moment is that the power systems were destroyed. Thankfully they did not react like the power station that was featured in that NOVA special I mentioned…the one that completely exploded and set a neighborhood ablaze.
Having determined that the situation was stable and once the building was cleared for response work, the museum crews came in. I do not have good information on the level of damage sustained, but what I do know is that the collections have been stabilized and are being prepped for transfer. The issue then, at this point, is not that the collections are in imminent further danger, but rather that they simply cannot safely stay where they are. Thankfully the rush is off, but alas they no longer need my assistance.
The issue as it stands now is that the structure itself needs major rehabilitation and that is not a good environment for collections to be in. So they will be transferred to another location. I have no doubt many will still need specialized treatment but it seems that it is less of an immediate threat than the simple facts of where they are now. The problem at this point is that, as mentioned, there is no power in the building so the collections will have to be moved manually unless they can get some sort of portable machinery in there. While moving a museum collection does require care, at this point supervision will be the most important element and they currently have sufficient resources to accomplish that so long as they get an ample supply of strong backs.
So, while I do not get the privilege to assist this time, my name is still on the list and given the widespread nature of the damage I will not be surprised to get another call. That said, this does not let you off the hook. You still have to make an effort to gain a greater appreciation of your local (or any) history…and preferably share that will with others.
Come to think of it you can start right now by following this link…
While I try to not let my day job bleed over into this arena I will let that slide for the moment so that you folks can get an immediate bit of culture and get a sense of what an NPS museum curator in Fairbanks Alaska does for a living. However, I would still encourage you to get involved locally, wherever you may be. Most likely, your local museum or historical society would love to have a volunteer, whether you have any particular expertise or not. If nothing else visit them and tell the staff how much you appreciate what they do…you can even do that online.
So I will stand down off of my soap box for now…but not for good. Perhaps the subject may even warrant a new category for this blog….just to keep things in order you understand.