Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Jim and Michelle's Excellent Adventure

Update on the Ballard Locks Project

Last week Michelle and I went on a field trip to the Seattle District Headquarters of the Corps of Engineers. The Seattle District covers an area that includes the states of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and western Montana. The Seattle District is the next step in the chain of command, leadership, management, and support for the Hiram Chittenden Locks and the Carl S. English Gardens. It is an enormous facility and I felt like the country boy gone to the big city.

Michelle and I took this trip in order to meet some of the players in key departments like Public Affairs, Records, Information Technology, and the District Library. My thanks to Casondra Brewster in Public Affairs for showing us around and introducing us to who we needed to meet. The good news is that there are funds available for us to have some of the 35mm film we have on hand previewed and if appropriate, digitized. Further, if we have records that need to be stored elsewhere to make room at the Locks, we know who to talk to for that.

Now the bad news for us as well as most other government agencies. Due to funding and staff cuts, there are very few, if any, dedicated staff for archiving records or historical activities, especially at the lowest levels of the agencies. Best example is our project here at the Locks. It seems that the usual effort for the archival, or just plain storage, of records is bottom driven to make room for more paper. And given those same budget constraints mentioned, actual archival activities must rely heavily on volunteers or it just won't get done.

The end result is that we now know that once our volunteers have finished scanning the photos and slide collections, the digitized collection can be added to a database maintained by the District. However, the photos themselves could be sent to storage with the District, but it doesn't sound like the optimal location. I think it will be preferrable to keep them on site. After all, where would you look for a photo collection of the Ballard Locks?

Our pictures on this post are both courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Hiram Chittenden Locks. The top photo is of a December snow in 1946. The second is of a seaplane forced to land in a snowstorm in the Puget Sound in February of 1947, that took passage through the Locks. If you are interested in helping to bring the rest of this photo collection online, please contact me at jim@ridinthewave.com

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