Disasters

Now on View - Recent Acquisitions in the Library & Archives

A2021_021_006_webThe exhibition currently on view in the Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives reading room features some recent acquisitions. This circular is among the items.

On June 7, 1893, the worst fire in Fargo, North Dakota’s history, destroyed much of the town, including its city hall, the business district, and homes of most of Fargo’s 6,000 residents. This circular describes the destruction, which included “every Lodge Room in the City.” The General Relief Committee of Northern Light Lodge No. 1 sent out this appeal for donations to other Odd Fellows. It noted that fifty members of the lodge “lost home, business and everything they possessed.” If you are interested in learning more about the fire, the North Dakota State University Archives has a page about the fire, including photos that depict the devastation.

The Van Gorden-Williams Library & Archives is one of the premiere repositories in the United States for the study of Freemasonry and fraternalism and is recognized as one of six major Masonic libraries in the country. Its collections reflect the Museum’s scope of Freemasonry, fraternalism, and American history. The Library & Archives holds one of the world's most comprehensive collections on the subject of Freemasonry, as well as other fraternal organizations, such as the Independent Order of Odd Fellows and the Knights of Pythias, whose development paralleled or was influenced by Masonry.

The Library & Archives collections pre-date the founding of the Museum in 1975, with the Northern Masonic Jurisdiction’s Supreme Council library collections forming the nucleus of the Van Gorden-Williams Library. Since its inception, the Library & Archives has continued to add to its holdings—from unique manuscripts to the latest scholarship on fraternalism—through purchases and donations.

The Library & Archives encourages both serious and casual researchers to consult its collections and learn more about American history, especially the wide variety of fraternal groups that have been part of our national story, and which demonstrate the role that Masonic and fraternal organizations have played—and continue to play—in American life.

Do you have something you're interested in donating? Feel free to get in touch with us through the museum's website.

Caption:

Independent Order of Odd Fellows Circular Letter, 1893
Issued by Northern Light Lodge, No. 1
Fargo, North Dakota
Museum Purchase, A2021/021/006


Keeping collections safe from flood, fire, and mold

Water mains break, electrical wires can malfunction, and climate control systems can fail--all of which can threaten the safety of a cultural institution's collections. How do organizations manage a disaster or emergency of this kind? As well as these type of emergencies, other major disasters can threaten  collections: flooding, fire, earthquake, or vandalism. Many museums in the United States have experienced disasters of various types. From their experiences, the museum community learns how to cope.

In the summer of 2008, Iowa's Cedar Rapids Museum of Art was hit by severe flooding.  It tookFlood at Cedar Rapids Art Museum  the museum a full year to get back to normal operations. The collections storage and preparation areas in the basement were damaged. All staff took time away from their normal duties to help with reconstructing of storage spaces--one painting at a time.

After the earthquake of 1989 in San Francisco, California museums became models for disaster response and recovery. The Oakland Museum of California even prepared an exhibition about the topic.

Other museums, such as the Saskatchewan Western Development Museum, document disasters that they've coped with. In this case, in Canada, the museum suffered severe damage to its roof from a wind storm in 2003.

Vadalism at Cairo Museum One recent example of a disaster at a museum was the damage done to some of the ancient treasures at the Egyptian National Museum in Cairo during the 2011 political protests of the Egyptian people against the regime of Hosni Mubarak. The museum is home to some of the world's most precious antiquities, an estimated 120,000 artifacts, including the treasures of King Tutankhamen. The damage done to Egyptian artifacts is major and curators must now assess the extent of the damage and begin conservation or restoration of the pieces.

As part of the Scottish Rite Masonic Museum and Library's Preservation initiatives, we are creating an Emergency Preparedness Plan. During 2011 we will be using and online tool called dPlan which was written, designed, and is maintained by Northeast Document Conservation Center.  NEDCC is a premier center for disseminating information about preservation and conservation.

The Northeast Document Conservation Center and the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners share dPlan, a free online program to help institutions write comprehensive disaster plans. The program provides templates for museums of all sizes to develop a customized plan with checklists; salvage priorities; preventive maintenance schedules; contact information for personnel, insurance, and IT help; and a list of emergency supplies and services are included.

Captions:

Flooding entrance to Cedar Rapids Museum of Art, http://www.crma.org/Content/About/Flood-Recovery-Update.aspx

Antiquities Damaged at Egyptian National Museum,http://hyperallergic.com/17815/egyptian-museum-damage/