National Task Force Announces Major Advance in Care of Damaged Collections

(June 11, 1997)

WASHINGTON - After years of seeking authoritative hands-on advice about ways of saving collections damaged by flood, tornado or hurricane, staff at 45,000 of the nation's cultural institutions now have an extraordinary new device that puts what they need to know at their fingertips.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the Getty Conservation Institute (GCI) and the National Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Property (NIC) have teamed up to produce the Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel. These organizations have formed the National Task Force on Emergency Response, a cooperative public-private effort to protect the nation's cultural heritage from the ravages of natural disasters.

The salvage wheel (click on the image for a life-size version) is designed to provide the staff at cultural institutions with quick access to essential information on protecting and salvaging collections during the first 48 hours of an emergency. The information was developed and reviewed by preservation and conservation professionals, and endorsed by FEMA and seven other federal agencies and national organizations. Some 45,000 libraries, museums, archives, and historical organizations and sites nationwide will receive the wheel.

Major public funding for the wheel was provided by the NEH, with private funding supplied by The St. Paul Companies and an anonymous foundation.

"Disasters can strike anywhere and destroy indiscriminately," said FEMA Director James Lee Witt. "We must do all we can to protect our nation's heritage for future generations. The salvage wheel is a terrific example of what we can accomplish with working partnerships like the National Task Force on Emergency Response."

"America's museums, libraries and archives are the guardians of the nation's cultural heritage," said NEH Chairman Sheldon Hackney. "If significant portions of their holdings are lost to posterity by natural disasters, we as a nation lose parts of the American experience. The arrival of the salvage wheel meets a huge need for information that can minimize or, in some cases, even prevent any such loss."

"We helped to establish the National Task Force in 1994 to mobilize our best resources to protect our nation's cultural heritage," said Getty Conservation Institute Director Miguel Angel Corzo. "The wheel demonstrates what a successful public-private partnership can produce when the cultural community and emergency professionals activate collective resources for the common good."

"The Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel addresses one of the most significant goals of the Task Force -- providing accurate and easily accessible information about preserving objects damaged by natural disasters," said NIC President Lawrence Reger. "The recent floods in the upper Midwest dramatically demonstrate again how vital this information is to all who have collections to preserve."

"The St. Paul is a major insurer of museums nationwide, and the arts are one of four key focus areas of the company's community affairs program," said The St. Paul Community Affairs Officer Mary Pickard. "The arts help us understand, express and preserve the world's diverse cultures. The Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel is a tool that will help safeguard that heritage, and it fits with our commitment to provide outstanding loss prevention services."

After the initial distribution to cultural institutions, the wheel will be available for purchase at $9.95 each, or at a nonprofit rate of $5.95 each, including postage and handling. Reduced rates are available for orders of 10 or more. For order forms or information, anyone can call toll-free 1-888-979-2233, or write to

National Task Force on Emergency Response
3299 K Street N.W.
Washington, DC 20007

The National Task Force on Emergency Response is a joint initiative of FEMA, Getty and NIC. It is a partnership of 29 government agencies and national service organizations committed to providing expert assistance to cultural institutions and the public in times of disaster.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency provides leadership and support to reduce loss of life and property and to protect the nation's institutions from all types of hazards through a comprehensive emergency management program of mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery. FEMA seeks to educate the public about what to do before, during and after a disaster, and to help government and private organizations develop effective plans, obtain necessary resources and conduct rigorous training for disaster response.

The National Endowment for the Humanities, an independent federal agency created by Congress in 1965, promotes knowledge of human history, thought and culture and enhances the role of the humanities throughout the nation. The Endowment supports significant and innovative scholarship in all humanities disciplines, fosters effective teaching and lifelong learning in the humanities, encourages thoughtful public participation in and enjoyment of the humanities, and preserves cultural and intellectual resources essential to the people of the United States.

The Getty Conservation Institute, part of the J. Paul Getty Trust, works internationally to further the appreciation and preservation of the world's cultural heritage for the enrichment and use of present and future generations. The Conservation Institute is committed to exploring new ideas and approaches to cultural heritage preservation; advancing the research and application of knowledge in the arts and sciences to conservation; collecting and disseminating information to professionals and the public worldwide; and changing common perceptions and attitudes to encourage community involvement in safeguarding our global cultural heritage.

The National Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Property serves as a national forum for conservation and preservation activities in the United States. It provides national leadership and coordination to promote and facilitate the conservation of the nation's heritage, including works of art, anthropological artifacts, documents, historic objects, architecture and natural science specimens.

The St. Paul Companies, headquartered in Saint Paul, Minn., is a group of companies that provides property-liability insurance products and services throughout the world.

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