Heritage Emergency National Task Force (HENTF)

By Bethany Hawkins, Chief of Operations

Our hearts go out to so many people in the wake of the devastating tornadoes in Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Illinois, Mississippi, and Missouri. Even though a major disaster has only been declared for Kentucky (to date), the Heritage Emergency National Task Force (HENTF) is now prepared to support state cultural agencies, arts organizations and cultural institutions, and local and state government entities that have been affected.

Life safety and life-sustaining activities remain the highest priority. AASLH wants to hear from any history organizations that sustained damage so we can help connect you with HENTF.

We also want to make you aware of the information available to you and the people in your communities:

Save Your Family Treasures | FEMA.gov. This FEMA site offers guidance to help individuals and families salvage their treasured family belongings following a disaster. The site includes the two-page fact sheet Salvaging Water-Damaged Family Valuables and Treasures (fema.gov), which is available in multiple languages. The site also contains step-by-step instructions to help survivors stabilize their treasured photos, documents and papers, and books and buy time to make an educated decision on further treatment and handling of family mementos.

Resources for the Public | Smithsonian. This Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative site offers the above guidance along with additional how-to resources that include videos.

The National Heritage Responders, a team of trained conservators and collections care professionals administered by the Foundation for Advancement in Conservation, has a public helpline email address to provide guidance on salvaging family heirlooms: NHRpublichelpline@culturalheritage.org

The National Heritage Responders also staffs a 24/7 hotline to assist cultural institutions affected by the tornadoes: 202-661-8068

HENTF has begun compiling reports of damage to arts organizations, cultural institutions, and government records-holding entities. If you are aware of any damage in this space, please email hawkins@aaslh.org. With this information, we can work together to protect our valuable cultural and historic resources.