May 1 is Disaster Preparedness Day, April 26 to May 2 is Preservation Week, and May is Preservation Month. These designations present the opportunity to focus on the importance of protecting our heritage whether that be our historical archives, buildings and sites, or even our own personal collections. Preservation of archival and public records is a major focus of the Texas State Library and Archives Commission. Our agency is mandated to maintain and protect the historical record of Texas. We take that role seriously and employ a full-time preservation officer and conservator to advise on the protection of archival documents, photographs, artifacts, and other materials of enduring, indeed, priceless value to the people of Texas. You can read about the fascinating work performed by our conservator, Sarah Norris, on her blog at https://tslacconservation.wordpress.com.
Meanwhile, our State and Local Records Management Division works with government agencies to advise on the proper retention and preservation of records of active administrative value and archival documents maintained by local governments such as in county courthouses. Many records are also maintained by local government agencies across the state. As I wrote a few weeks ago in this blog, those records are too often at risk of damage from water, mold, pests and other threats arising from poor storage conditions and neglect. You can read more about the services of the SLRM division on their blog, the Texas Record at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/slrm/blog/.
Even our Library Development and Networking division is involved in protecting local collections of permanent interest via our TexTreasures grant program, which over the years has been responsible for digitizing many notable local collections including newspapers, historical photographs, maps, scrapbooks and much more. For a look at the TexTreasures grants libraries are working on this year, visit our grants page at https://www.tsl.texas.gov/ld/funding/lsta/recipients15.html.
Preserving Texas history through our priceless collections is an obligation of librarians and archivists across Texas. The ability to digitize much of these materials to be available through our sites and other such as the Portal of Texas History at the University of North Texas http://texashistory.unt.edu, provides all citizens with immediate access to the record of our past and ensures that it will be preserved for generations to come.
And individuals can participate, too. Preservation Month is a great time to review your family heirloom photographs and records and make sure they are safely stored away from possible damage from water and the elements. Your family’s future generations will be glad you did.