Last week, the results of the Heritage Health Index (HHI) were announced, and they weren’t pretty. As you read this, millions of artifacts stored in museums, libraries and other institutions across the United States are slowly disintegrating, due to improper storage.
The HHI, the first comprehensive survey ever to assess the condition and preservation needs of U.S. collections, found that 65% of collecting institutions have already experienced damage to their collections because of improper storage, 80% of U.S. collecting institutions do not have an emergency plan that includes their collections nor do they have staff trained to carry it out, and 190 million objects are in immediate need of conservation treatment.
Although damage and potentially damaging conditions can be found at institutions large and small, the worst offenders are small-town museums and historical societies.
“There is an urgent need for a better environment for collections of all kinds,” said Debra Hess Norris, chairwoman of Heritage Preservations, a conservation advocacy group.
However, Kristen Overbeck Laise, director of the HHI project, said that “it’s hard to raise money for something as boring as storage.”
What does this mean to genre travelers? Most collections of science fiction, fantasy and horror artifacts can be found at small, under-funded museums and institutions — those that are most likely to have collections in trouble. In fact, this year alone, many, such as Baltimore’s American Dime Museum and the Movieland Wax Museum in Buena Park, Calif., have closed or will be closing by the end of the year.
If you live somewhere that has one of these little institutions, provide your support. Donate money, time or expertise. Help these places survive and keep genre heritage safe from mold, bugs and time.
For more information about the HHI, go to their website at www.heritagehealthindex.org.