How curators transferred Sequoia and King’s Canyon National Parks’ archives to escape wildfires

Editor’s take note: As wildfires came dangerously shut to Sequoia and Kings Canyon Nationwide Parks in September 2020, the curator of the archives there worked with Emily Lin, librarian and head of digital curation at the University of California Merced, to evacuate the archives to maintain them secure. In this job interview, Lin describes how they evacuated the documents, what’s in them and why they are worthy of preserving.
Listen to Emily Lin of UC Merced speak about the archives and see the contents of the park archives and shots from the evacuation.

Why were being the archives of Sequoia and King’s Canyon Nationwide Parks evacuated?

Ward Eldredge, the curator of the archives of the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks, and I experienced been conversing about the likely partnership all-around digitization of collections that experienced been housed there for a few of decades now. There’s been a concern about the basic safety of these documents due to the fact wildfires in the earlier several years have been an annual risk. So the lengthy-phrase safekeeping of the information was really much on Eldredge’s intellect. And he pointed out that the UC Merced campus is situated in a single of the couple of places in California that are outside the house of a higher-danger fire zone and also exterior of the risk of earthquakes. There was just no problem that we would do no matter what we could to carry them below for safekeeping.

The Castle Fireplace in Oct 2020 burned hundreds of Sequoias in the privately owned Alder Creek grove that NGO Conserve the Redwoods League acquired significantly less than a year back.
Al Seib/LA Situations via Getty Photos

In September, when the fires acquired truly shut to the park, Eldredge was making an attempt genuinely hard to come across a way to go the products. He just could not find a van or a truck mainly because the residents in the spot ended up also being called to evacuate, and there was a shortage. So in the class of a day, we managed to make preparations to consider our relocating truck from campus, and he was in a position to protected a U-Haul truck. We ended up ready to pack almost everything and move it out of the mountains to the UC Merced campus, which is two and a 50 percent several hours absent.

What is in these archives?

There had been hundreds of packing containers of collections, about 600 linear toes, and also cabinets of plant specimens and artifacts.

It is a complete record of the administrative heritage of the park. Sequoia was the 2nd-oldest countrywide park in the U.S., founded in 1890. So there are records associated to its founding and by way of to the 20th century. In letters prepared by the park administrators to the U.S. president and the secretaries of the Division of the Interior, 1 can see how the contemplating all around taking care of community lands, conservation, fire and forest management altered above the very last century.

Before the park was recognized, men and women would minimize the sequoias down for timber. The metropolis of Los Angeles wanted to develop a dam in Kings Canyon up until 1965. So you can see how the contemplating altered and how we acquired from that way of thinking to truly creating the National Park Service and preserving these one of a kind environments.

A landscape photo of Kings Canyon in California
Kings Canyon is a rugged glacier-carved valley much more than a mile deep.
Crd637 via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA

There’s an incredible photographic document – tens of countless numbers of photos that include fairly substantially just about every area in just the park. There are maps of the sequoia groves, maps relevant to how trails and streets and other structures ended up produced. We take these trails for granted, but they had been huge undertakings involving hundreds of staff breaking rocks, chopping trees and excavating for years. They worked via the winter season often to do it inside of schedule. These tasks also supplied jobs in the course of the Wonderful Depression.

Who will come across them valuable?

Anyone, from these within the parks who want to far better have an understanding of the background of the park, to the rangers and the interpreters who want to offer and existing that history to the standard public. Ken Burns, the acclaimed documentary filmmaker, accessed these records when he was making his television sequence about the national parks.

They’ll also be additional broadly available for learners to use. There’s loads of content in there for a lot of Ph.D. learners performing on dissertations and for all those who want to definitely examine how best to regulate general public lands and establish what’s helpful. That expertise is heading to gain the broader public and enable conserve these countrywide parks for all of us. There’s a rich record that can help us have an understanding of what is unique about the natural environment that lets these trees to endure.

What are the plans for preserving the archives at UC Merced?

When the documents had been stored in the park, it was just 1 person, Ward Eldredge, keeping the data. That is a large amount of function. You could make an appointment and he could give access if you needed to appear to the park, but it’s in a incredibly compact house in the park headquarters, so the accessibility was undoubtedly minimal. Now that these collections are at the library at UC Merced, it will be easier for folks to be capable to accessibility them.

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Our eyesight is to be equipped to digitize much of this material. As soon as it’s online, it will be a lot simpler for men and women to at least see and maybe remedy some of their fast thoughts. And if there’s a want for them to see the actual physical materials, they can nevertheless make preparations to do that.

There is even now a very long way to go, due to the fact normally, we would have to make a system with the National Park Company, elevate resources, create the amenities to retail store them safely and securely and so on. Since we had to evacuate them, we still have to get the job done on formalizing an arrangement, but our purpose is eventually to make sure that these records will be secure.

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