History salvage

I had checked the progress of the artifact rescue online, but I was still surprised when the truck pulled up in front of the historical society.  It was an old USPS truck, repainted orange with a brown running horse on it, the symbol of the New Pony Express.  It was accompanied by a distinct smell of fried dumplings.  Obviously there were enough restaurants open to fuel a biodiesel truck.  

It was surprising to see the mail being delivered in an official vehicle.  Usually the NPE system used traveling volunteers to deliver packages, parcels and other things that couldn’t be transmitted electronically (a ‘packet’ can’t carry weather collecting devices, or plows).  The NPE’s infrastructure was people and community mail drop nodes, not mail trucks, postboxes and postal stations.  Thus it was strange to have a delivery direct to the museum.

I had a new volunteer, L., a librarian displaced from the ReDS zone, who had been helping me research and organize materials for the putting-your-garden-to-bed workshop.  We both ran out to meet the truck.  The door opened and out spilled a driver, a young woman wearing an obviously handknitted hat with a pony on it, and a number of excited German shepards.  The driver grinned.  “Is this the Brown County Historical Society?  Delivery from New Orleans!”

An army of volunteers (and conscripts) had been rescuing artifacts, papers and even pieces of historic houses from the Gulf Coast.  I wondered about how the project was managed.  The National Trust still existed, but this kind of rescue, from the ReDS zone no less, required a lot of money, energy and time, not to mention very detailed tracking of “loaned” items and repositories. The rescued items were being transported to repositories that could take them.  I had signed us up, with the amount of cubic feet we had available for items and a description of our facilities.  I eyed the truck.  Whatever it was would have to live in the attic.

“This is a special Heritage Rescue delivery,” said the driver.  “We sent out a fleet of trucks from NoLa and Biloxi.  I’ve been driving up the Mississippi finding these things good homes–with the help of this crowdsourced loan and delivery tracking and mapping system.”  She patted a piece of electronics in her pocket.  “I dropped off some architectural salvage in St. Peter, but you’ve got the space and the environmental stability for this collection.”  

She rolled up the back of the truck.  “It’s the Jazz History Archives from Tulane.  Or what’s left of it.”  The boxes filled the truck to the ceiling.  L. and I jumped up and down in excitement.  “Do you need a place to stay?”  I asked the driver.  “We’re going to have a concert tonight.”


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October 2008


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