The Houston Flood Museum and the Harvey Memories Project Gather Harvey Memories for Historians of the FutureHistorians in the News
tags: environmental history, Texas, archives, Weather, Hurricane
These are a few of the roughly 2,300 artifacts in two Hurricane Harvey time capsules: The Houston Flood Museum and the Harvey Memories Project. Both are online-only, open-access archives, and they’re still growing. Together, they provide a compelling snapshot of the destruction wrought by the deadliest storm to hit Texas since 1919. They’re also meant to endure for decades as a resource to future scholars and community members.
“I think historians recognize how fragile and precarious archives are,” said Caleb McDaniel, a professor of history at Rice University, where the Harvey Memories Project he co-directs is hosted. “People take lots of photos on their phone, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they are preserved. It wouldn’t be a trivial exercise to go back and find pictures posted on Twitter during the storm, for example. We want to make sure that as file formats change, and as the public’s attention moves on, someone’s still taking care of this material.”
To that end, all 1,400 items in the Harvey Memories Project are tagged with searchable metadata, such as the image’s location, date, time, and a description. Photos make up the bulk of the collection, but the project also compiles videos and written accounts. The site leaves viewers with an exhaustive sense of the storm’s impact: There are 98 photos of the damage to the historic Alley Theatre, from the cracked stage to a pile of sodden tickets; 73 photos of the Barbara Bush Branch Library in Spring being mucked out; and 58 photos of roofless homes and debris piles in Baytown.
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