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[BKARTS] Efforts to save city documents stymied

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Efforts to save city documents stymied

The Associated Press
September 05. 2005 7:02PM

Specialists working for the New Orleans Notorial Archives have been stymied while trying to get downtown to rescue some of the most historic documents in the city's history, from original land grants to slave sale records and title records.
Federal troops have refused to let them through checkpoints into the city.
The Notorial Archives hired Munters Corp., a Swedish document salvage firm that freezes and then freeze-dries records to slowly remove moisture from them, to rescue the documents. But Munters refrigerated trucks were turned away by uniformed troops as they tried to enter the city, said Stephen Bruno, custodian of the archives.
The trucks were headed to the Civil District Courthouse on Poydras Street, where many of the city's real estate documents are housed, and to the former Amoco building also on Poydras Street, which houses historic documents such as a letter from Jean Lafitte to Washington demanding payment for his expenditures during the Battle of New Orleans.
Eddy Pokluda, head of national sales for Munters in Dallas, said the company tried to get one person in to make an assessment of the damage but was turned away, even though days earlier they had coordinated with New Orleans police to have an escort into the city.
"I don't think people realize the importance of these records," Pokluda said. "It's imperative we get in there and see if these can be saved."
Most governments have digitized their real estate records, and Bruno was just about to hire a firm to transfer many of the documents in the archive to the computer. But at the Notorial Archives, most abstractors still do hand searches of the 12 million stored documents.
"We're still in the horse and buggy days," Bruno said.
Information from: The Times-Picayune,

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