Local Historical Societies Receive Illinois Humanities Council Grants for Disaster Preparedness

Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– The Park Forest and Will County Historical Societies received grants of $500 to assist in putting on an October 17, 2009 workshop, "How to Prepare for and Respond to Disaster." Jane Nicoll, Archivist for the Park Forest society, and Gayle Crompton of the Will County society were co-presenters of the workshop.

Nicoll and Crompton attended a four-day class in May at the Campbell Center for Preservation, "Disaster Preparedness and Response." In return for free tuition to that class, the 14 attendees were mandated to hold similar workshops in their own regions of Illinois. Those invited to attend the workshop were from museums, historical societies and libraries in eastern Will County and southern Cook County. Nicoll and Crompton shared handouts and information giving other agencies in the region resources to assess their property, and to prepare to construct a disaster plan. Information on how to respond to a disaster and salvage techniques was also provided.

Disaster planning is a national initiative of several historic agencies in the United States. The Heritage Health Index, a survey conducted in 2004, with results released in 2005, revealed that America’s historic collections are a public trust at risk. The survey revealed 80% of collecting institutions did not have an emergency plan that included collections (in 2004), with staff trained to carry out the plan. The grants awarded to educate staff and volunteers from Illinois repositories at the Campbell Center and to conduct the regional workshops are part of this national initiative to give institutions the knowledge to produce such emergency plans.

Disasters such as Katrina and the 2008 floods in Iowa and Illinois, which affected many historic collections, have made institutions and the public more aware of the need for advanced planning and training to protect our nation’s heritage.

The Illinois Humanities Council is an educational organization dedicated to fostering a culture in which the humanities are a vital part of the lives of individuals and communities. Through its programs and services, the IHC promotes greater understanding of appreciation for, and involvement in the humanities by the citizens of Illinois, regardless of their economic resources, cultural backgrounds or geographic location. Organized as a state affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities in 1974, the IHC is now a private nonprofit (501 [c] 3) organization that is funded by contributions from individuals, corporations and foundations; by the Illinois General Assembly; and by the NEH.