Veterans whose personal military records were damaged by Hurricane Matthew can receive a free consultation with a state archivist on how to preserve their documents.
Military Collection Archivist Matthew Peek said his priority is making sure that no historically significant documents are accidentally thrown away as residents of Eastern North Carolina recover from damage inflicted by Matthew last month.
“Twenty or 30 years from now, I don’t want to see that veterans’ stories have been lost because their records were destroyed in the hurricane,” Peek said. “I’m hoping to mitigate the damage to records in order to preserve history.”
Peek says he heard “a lot of horror stories” about damage to military records after Hurricane Floyd in 1999, which he hopes to help avoid this time. He can be reached for a consultation via phone, at 919-807-7314, or email, at email@example.com, to discuss possible preservation options.
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Peek said historically significant records can include letters, photographs and training manuals. He will provide consultations on records from any war and will offer advice to veterans or the families of veterans.
“Families don’t always know what is important to keep or not to keep,” he said. “You might not think certain records are worthwhile to preserve, but they can be incredibly significant and useful in constructing a historical record.”
Peek noted that personal records from wars since World War II are especially significant because many official records from recent wars have not yet been declassified, making personal records a rare source of insight.
General advice for artifacts that have been water damaged include making sure that they are separate from each other and exposed to air so that they do not get moldy, Peek said. He added that it is important not to separate records from their historical content. Letters, for example, should be removed from their envelopes, but the two should be kept together so the address and date of the letter are not lost.
Peek said Monday that he had not yet received any requests for consultations from veterans and added that he hopes the “word will continue to spread” as recovery efforts continue.
The Military Collection of the State Archives of North Carolina, where Peek works, is part of the N.C. Department of Natural and Cultural Resources. Its goal is to document and preserve records detailing North Carolina’s military history from the colonial era to the present.
Department of Natural and Cultural Resources Secretary Susan Kluttz said she hopes word about the service will spread and veterans will take advantage of it.
“We know these records are probably very important to the veterans and their families,” Kluttz said. “They are also very important to the state of North Carolina.”
Rachel Chason: 919-829-4629
What about other kinds of artifacts?
Videos on the State Archives of North Carolina website include tips for preserving nonmilitary artifacts, such as family Bibles and wedding albums, that have been damaged by flooding. Those videos, found at www.youtube.com/user/ncarchives/videos, include “General Paper Preservation Tips,” “Identifying and Protecting Essential Family Records,” “Managing and Preserving Digital Images,” “Care and Preservation of Family Photographs” and “Caring for and Sharing Family Personal Papers.”
North Carolina residents with questions about nonmilitary items damaged by flooding may contact Jennifer Blomberg, at firstname.lastname@example.org.