One Year Later: Hurricane Archive Collects More Than 5,000 Online Stories and Images

Posted: August 29, 2006 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Courtney Giarrusso, 25, and her family followed a local tradition and decided to ride out Hurricane Katrina on the top floors of the Fairmont Hotel in downtown New Orleans. Little did they know that the levee flooding would trap them in the hotel and later destroy their Lakeview home, designed to accommodate Giarrusso’s needs as a quadriplegic.

Since returning to New Orleans in December, she has encountered many challenges, including finding a permanent health care attendant and finishing college. Her stories are among more than 5,000 firsthand accounts, on-scene images, blog postings, podcasts and videos collected on the Center for History and New Media’s Hurricane Digital Memory Bank web site.

hurricane image
A photo from the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank.
MSO Port Arthur, USCG, “100_0154.JPG.” Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, Object #3861 (August 28 2006, 4:13 p.m.)

“The project seeks to foster positive legacies for those affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita by saving their memories and digital files. As with our work on the September 11 Digital Archive, the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank will prove to be an essential resource for scholars and citizens studying the implications Katrina and Rita in the future,” says Roy Rosenzweig, director of the Center for History and New Media at George Mason.

The Hurricane Digital Memory Bank was created by the University of New Orleans and the Center for History and New Media, in partnership with the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History and with funding by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.

house in flood
A photo from the Hurricane Digital Memory Bank.
MSO Port Arthur, USCG, “100_0174.JPG.” Hurricane Digital Memory Bank, Object #3881 (August 28 2006, 4:12 p.m.

The site gives readers unmatched perspective into the lives of those who survived, evacuated from, responded to and began to rebuild after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The archive is part of a growing practice of using the Internet to preserve the past through “digital memory banks.”

The free archive offers hurricane survivors a permanent place to save their memories and digital files for historical reference. The Hurricane Digital Memory bank accepts contributions from anyone and is available for all to read or browse. Those without Internet access can phone 504-208-3883 to record their experience. New Orleans musician Delfeayo Marsalis welcomes contributors in the recorded announcement.

The archive also features special collections, such as the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History’s compilation of 900 photographs taken along the Gulf Coast in September and October 2005. These images are available to the general public only through the archive.

Working with various partners, such as the Louisiana State Museum, the National Hansen’s Disease Museum, the 102nd Military History Detachment from the Kansas Army National Guard and the Katrina’s Kids Project, The Hurricane Digital Memory Bank is documenting institutional, military and nonprofit responses to Katrina and Rita.

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