What is the Picture Project?
Volunteers from Erie, Pennsylvania traveled to Biloxi, Mississippi, in October with the goal of setting up a system to collect pictures found in the ruins after Hurricane Katrina, and eventually return these photos to their owners. Once there they learned that thousands of pictures had been found, yet no one knew who they belonged to or what to do with them.
The Picture Project is the Erie community's gift to the residents of the gulf coast and surrounding areas whose precious photos were lost in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In partnership with The Sun Herald, South Mississippi's Newspaper located in Biloxi, pictures from a six-county area will be collected and brought back to Erie where volunteers will catalogue and scan them onto the internet, where Kodak will assist in the project by printing the pictures free of charge and supplying the prints to those who claim them.
What is the duration of the Project?
Volunteer groups in Erie from local schools, churches, senior centers, retiree groups, etc. will work on the Katrina pictures until they are all posted. The Erie effort will serve as a blueprint for dealing with the loss of photos whenever a disaster strikes anywhere in the Country, be it a hurricane, tornado, flood, earthquake, etc.
What help was secured?
The owner of the local United Van Lines franchise of Erie has delivered a Go Mini storage container from their Erie company to the parking lot of The Sun Herald in Biloxi, Mississippi. Picture collection points are set up at Wal-Marts in a six-county area where people who find pictures can leave them. These boxes will then be taken to the storage container at The Sun Herald and it will be trailered back to Erie for the work to begin. Erie's local ABC affiliate will partner with TV media in Biloxi to put out the word to residents there. Once the Go Mini Container is returned to Erie, the United Van Lines affiliate, JH Bennett Moving and Storage, will assist the project with utilization of its record management storage system. Locally, the Erie Historical Museum director has offered their help with the project. Werkbot Studios has agreed to develop a website, free of charge, for The Picture Project. Nationally known author, Ann Weiss, who wrote The Last Album, which describes how she retrieved pictures from Auschwitz-Berkenau concentration camp and returned them to the families of those murdered there, is helping with the project. She will garner national publicity for the sponsors. A graphic artist is designing a Picture Project shirt for volunteers to wear and for sale with the proceeds benefiting hurricane aid. Sponsors will have their names and logos on the shirt.
Many individuals in Erie want to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina, but cannot physically travel to affected areas and do not feel just donating funds is enough. This volunteer work can be done in their spare time right in their own community. Local high school students who must complete community service hours as part of their graduation requirements will be recruited to work on the project. This will teach them the importance of family history through photographs and give them a meaningful concept of what personal loss occurs in such a disaster.
Isn't this low on the priority list when people need food, water and shelter?
Yes. However, these material items can be supplied, but once a moment in time has passed, unless it has been captured in a photo and that photo saved, the physical memory is gone. Salvaging these memories can have a profound positive effect on the mental health of many families who suffered from the Katrina disaster. Without this project, some families will lose their entire history in photos.
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