June 2008

Floods continue to inundate the Mississippi Valley. What’s happening with history and cultural heritage institutions? Read more for how you can help.

NEH has just announced that it will be giving out $1 million in grants for disaster recovery: “Affected institutions in federally designated disaster areas may apply immediately for emergency grants of up to $20,000 to salvage, protect, and treat historical collections damaged by the flooding. Such collections may include manuscripts, historical records, art and artifacts, recorded sound, film and videotape, rare books, photographs, and other materials of cultural or historical significance.”

Here in Minnesota, Historic Forestville, a living history museum run by the MHS, in a state park, had some flood damage, including a washed out bridge, but the park reopened last weekend. The caves will take a while to dry out, so postpone that trip to the Mystery Cave when you’re down in Preston.

The Cedar Rapids Public Library, right on the river, had some serious damage to collections: there’s an interview with a library spokesperson. The library’s website notes: “Please do not return flood damaged books. Fines and fees for flood damaged library materials and overdue materials are waived until further notice.” These flooded library pictures are tragic. (via jessamyn)

Heritage Preservation has a disaster resource page, with links to damage response information and ways to get teams of crack conservators to come in to your institution as collections first responders. This should be particularly useful if you’re affiliated with a flood-damaged museum or cultural resource institution.

****Want to help out affected museums with a donation? I will match donations to the Iowa Museum Association for flood relief by PH readers up to $200. We all know that small museums run on a shoestring. Without help, some of these institutions may never be able to recover. Please send checks to Iowa Museum Association, 1116 Washington Street, Cedar Falls, IA 50613. Leave a note in the comments or drop me an email to tell me you donated.****

Here’s a message that’s been circulating from the Iowa Museum Association about how to help (and here’s more tragic photos from their blog).

…While we are still receiving damage reports, it is important to begin getting supplies and help to those who have been allowed back in their facility.

Mail and delivery services as well as e-mail, telephone and cell phone communication, are spotty in some areas at this time. For that reason we have decided to concentrate delivery of supplies to two main areas at this time. More will probably be added as we are able to determine where the need for help exists.

The organizations in Cedar Falls/Waterloo and in Cedar Rapids have been or are starting to be allowed back in their buildings. In some clean up and recovery has begun. You will find attached a list of items (flood-clean-up-supply-list1 [pdf]) that I am aware of that have been vital to beginning this process – if you know of others please let me know and I will add them to the list. The supply items listed are merely suggestions – if you would like to donate money, a fund has been set up by the Iowa Museum Association which will be distributed to those affected. Funds may be sent to IMA at the address below. If you would like to donate your time and talents, you will need to contact the individual museums and see if it is safe for you to travel to that area and how you can best assist. Again, my personal experience has shown that it takes many hard-working volunteers to begin the recovery process, so “helping hands” may be the greatest blessing you can offer.

The two collection points have different volume needs based on facilities identified to date that are in need of assistance.

In Cedar Falls/Waterloo, affected museums are the Ice House Museum, the Dan Gable Wrestling Museum, the Waterloo Center for the Arts and Hope Martin Theatre.

In Cedar Rapids, affected museums are the African American Historical Museum and Cultural Center, the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, the National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library, the Science Station, Ushers Ferry Historic Village, Seminole Valley Farm historic building complex and the Mother Mosque of North America museum.

The collection point in Cedar Falls will be the Cedar Falls Historical Society, 308 West Third Street, Cedar Falls, Iowa 50613.

The collection point in Cedar Rapids will be Brucemore, 2160 Linden Drive SE, Cedar Rapids, IA 52403.

Please ship all supplies via FedEx or UPS. In each box, please include your name, contact information and a complete list of supplies you are sending.

Area museums will be asked to send a representative to the two collection points to pick up supplies that will aid their recovery efforts. Donated supplies will be available to any museum or cultural organization that needs them, not just those listed above as identified to date.

Thank you very much for your offer of assistance!

Iowa Museum Association
mailing address: 1116 Washington Street
Cedar Falls, IA 50613
(319) 239-2236


University of Iowa Museum of Art under water

University of Iowa Art Museum under waterThe art museum and libraries at the University of Iowa seem to have made it through the flood. (photo courtesy UI News Service) The buildings have taken on water, but collections have been moved to high ground. According to a post on the ACUMG-L, the university libraries enlisted “an army of volunteers” to move books out of their basement. No library collections items were damaged or are in danger. The entire U of I Arts campus has been hit hard by the flood. Thankfully, the U of I Art Museum had a disaster plan, and put it into action:

The UI Museum of Art has a disaster plan which was implemented last week. On a proactive basis the fine arts insurance company, Lloyds of London, has provided an emergency response team with fine art expertise. Three out-of-state conservators have been on-site preparing objects to be transported off campus as needed. Professional fine art packers and shippers are assisting museum and university staff. We have security staff on-site 24 hours a day. There has been no significant intrusion of water to the facilities.

The U of I has set up a flood relief fund.

A report from the Cedar Rapids Museum of Art is up on the National Trust historic sites blog:

“The Grant Wood Studio is fine and the situation at the Museum of Art is very much under control. The flood waters stopped several feet short of the Museum, but we received about 9 inches of water which backed up through drains in the basement of the Museum wing. By tonight (Sunday), all of that water should be pumped out.

“As the water began to appear and rise in the basement (I literally do not remember which night that was), we reacted immediately. Thanks to an incredible group of staff and volunteers, a considerable amount of artwork was removed from art storage into upper floor galleries or was moved to higher places within art storage. Unfortunately, we ran out of time and we believe that some artwork remained as low as 15 inches off the ground.”

Water is being removed from the building and a team of conservators came in today to assess the damage. Also, they can’t use any volunteers at the moment.

Minnesota museums seem to have made it through the flood just fine. I’ll keep you posted.

The National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library, Cedar Rapids, Friday

Since I moved down to a floodplain, here in Rochester, Minn., I’ve been worried about local museums in southern Minnesota and northern Iowa.  Cedar Rapids, of course, was totally under water, though the flood is receding.  But the museum there are been severely damaged.  The National Trust is reporting that the historic house museum Brucemore is okay, and possibly the collections of the art museum and Grant Wood museum, but the art museum, the library, the science center, the Czech and Slovak Museum (above, on Friday) and the African-American Museum were under water.  Here in Minnesota, in Austin the Spam Museum was closed for the flood last week, but it’s not clear if there was damage.  A state of emergency was declared for Mower (Austin) and Freeborn (Albert Lea) counties in southern Minnesota, but no word on other local museums.

I’ll keep you posted on places to send money and for any possibilities for collections professionals to go down and help out with the recovery.