After Much Work, Park Archives Finally In Order

Park Service historian Milagros Flores  (left) and Virginia resident Becky Tobey, who attended the seminar.Lysol and acid-free products will be your best friends when it comes to preserving your family’s important papers, Milagros Flores, an historian for the National Park Service in the Caribbean, said.
"Lysol kills roaches better than roach spray," Flores advised.
Flores, who is based at V.I. National Park on St. John, led a tour through the park’s archives as part of the Friends of the Park seminar series. The seminar series continues through April.
According to Flores, acid-free products — like boxes, file folders, paper, and the like — protect documents from deteriorating.
"They’re available at Office Max," Flores said, referring to the St. Thomas office supply store.
When it comes to Lysol, she said don’t spray it directly on the item. Instead, spray on the file folder, for example, let dry, and then place the paper in the folder. Or spray the inside of a plastic zipper bag, let dry, and place items in the bag.
"If you spray directly on the document, it takes away the ink," she said.
When it comes to rescuing damaged documents, vacuuming will get rid of dried mold, but Flores recommended doing it through a screen or through your spread fingers to prevent damage to the paper.
If those documents are in terrible condition, Flores advised doing nothing until you get professional advice.
An historian by trade, she’s been with the National Park Service for 23 years and has worked at various locations, including San Juan National Historic Site in Puerto Rico.
The archives are a first for this national park. When Flores arrived in 2007, she found cardboard boxes filled with papers relating to the park and St. John. Some dated back to the park’s beginnings in the 1950s. Many of the papers had water damage. Others were bug infested and some had serious mold problems.
"A rat in the map cabinet chewed the maps," she said.
They were stored at various park buildings. Trailers at the park’s maintenance yard held boxes and boxes of items. A refrigerated container under one of the Biosphere Reserve’s buildings had still more boxes. Some archives were stored in staff offices.
National Park Service staff sent from regional headquarters had inventoried the files, but it was up to Flores to get things in shape. First, she had to locate funding and space. Flores petitioned the National Park Service for funds, which materialized, and located a vacant park housing unit located across from the Biosphere Reserve at Lind Point to use as the archive building.
With the help of two people trained in archival methods at San Juan National Historic Site, Maritz Acevedo and Doris Diaz, Flores unpacked and treated 74,400 items to get them in suitable shape for the park’s archives.
Those documents and maps are now stored in a climate-controlled and locked room in the archive building.
The archives are opened to the public, but Flores said people intending to use the archives should contact Rafe Boulon, who is the park’s chief of resource management, to set up a time.
Flores is available to speak to groups about the archives and archival methods. Additionally, she said that the archives accept donations of material from residents.
And if you want to volunteer at the archives? Flores will welcome you with "open arms."
"You don’t have to have any experience, and it’s a sit-down job," she said.
For more information, call Boulon at 693-8950, extension 224. To reach the archives, call 774-2585.

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