Park Service Team Set to Rescue Years of Artifacts
Their bags are packed with safety glasses, gloves, masks, boots and suits. As soon as they hit the ground in New Orleans, they plan to set up triage tents and long tables. Then the emergency team from the National Park Service will begin its work: blotting, washing, drying, straightening and preserving centuries of historical artifacts that tell the story of one of the oldest U.S. cities.
Their biggest enemy is mildew.
"When we do retrieved artifacts, we're dealing in extreme mold," West said. "Anytime 48 hours pass, you get mold. You have to fight mold. We've seen it turn the most amazing colors -- bubble-gum pink once."
The preservationists dried and blotted a million artifacts from colonial Jamestown in Virginia after Hurricane Isabel hit in 2003. Last year, they used boats to get to 300,000 artifacts in the Fort Pickens museum near Pensacola, Fla., after Hurricane Ivan.
Once it gets the all-clear in the coming days, the preservation team will head to the Crescent City to retrieve documents, photographs, furniture and other pieces of history that have marked the rich life of a city founded in 1718 and occupied by the French, Spanish, Creoles, Americans, Confederates, fire, disease and water -- again and again.
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