That old photo of your great-great-grandmother in front of the family farmhouse. The letters written home by your great-great-great-uncle while serving in the Civil War. The family Bible which registered generations of births and deaths.
These are the priceless heirlooms that families often do their best to preserve for future generations.
After Hurricane Florence, the Smithsonian Institution has sent some of its staff to South Carolina to help disaster victims in South Carolina preserve these precious pieces of personal history. Members of the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative are helping disaster victims save their family heirlooms. Among the heirlooms that may be salvageable are photos, artwork, quilts, important documents and other keepsakes.
Several teams were invited to man FEMA disaster centers which opened across the Pee Dee after Florence. The experts will discuss how to handle, dry and clean these items, maintain personal safety during the salvage process, set priorities and other treatment options.
“(We’ll) run demonstrations for local disaster survivors to show them some techniques in handling strategies for their personal heirlooms that might have been damaged from the floodwaters,” initiative training coordinator Stacy Bowe told South Carolina Radio Network. “We’re just trying to show them ways that they’re able to salvage these objects so that they can keep them instead of throwing them out. Because we completely understand that there’s just some irreplaceable stuff in people’s homes.”
The Smithsonian Heritage Emergency Task Force was also in South Carolina after Hurricane Matthew.
“Since disaster centers are informational hubs, we just thought we would add this information to that,” Bowe said. FEMA organized the centers to be a one-stop-shop for all of the materials, applications and resources victims need to recover from Hurricane Florence.
Bowe said most people are asking advice about photographs, books, textiles and other movable objects.
“At the Smithsonian we’re constantly thinking about how we can protect the national collections that are kept within the Smithsonian . . . most of those collections came for personal collections which came from local communities just like the ones that we see down here,” she said. “Local residents have some very precious items that they care for so I want to be able to help them make sure that they stick around for the community’s lifetime and all the disasters that come after.”
While the team is available to give advice, they ask people not to bring items with them to the disaster centers.
“Moving objects runs the risk of damaging them further,” she said. “Or if they’re contaminated or with mold, we don’t want to bring those objects into disaster recovery centers. I’m sure FEMA will get really mad at that. We’re here to give guidance and information. We’re not doing individual consultation about a specific object.”
Experts will be at the FEMA Disaster Recovery Centers below:
Oct. 30 & Oct. 31
Northeast Technical College – Building 200
1201 Chesterfield Highway
Cheraw, SC 29520
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Marian Wright Edelman Public Library of Marlboro County
203 Fayetteville Ave
Bennettsville, SC 29512
Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.