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The Heritage Emergency National Task Force (HENTF)

A woman showing off antique items to a man.

The losses that result from disasters are usually counted in dollars. But following a disaster, the losses disaster survivors most feel are often items they cherish the most – photographs, a wedding video, an antique quilt, Grandma’s recipe cards. In the aftermath of a disaster, these treasured keepsakes may be salvaged instead of reluctantly discarded.

The Heritage Emergency National Task Force (HENTF) is a partnership between the Office of Environmental Planning & Historic Preservation (OEHP) and the Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative (SCRI). It strives to protect cultural and historic resources in our nation’s states, tribes, territories and local communities from the damaging effects of disasters. In addition to assisting museums and other cultural institutions when their collections are damaged by an event, HENTF helps reduce disaster suffering by assisting the public.

In collaboration with Individual Assistance, Smithsonian preservation experts can be deployed to Disaster Recovery Centers (DRCs) to conduct SCRI’s Saving Your Family Treasures program. They offer advice and guidance to individuals, demonstrating how to safely handle, dry and clean damaged objects using materials available at local hardware stores. They also offer fact sheets and share tips on protecting items.

Since 2016, SCRI teams have deployed to Louisiana, Texas, South Carolina, Nebraska and Iowa. HENTF is helping disaster survivors literally pick up the pieces of their lives so they can move forward in recovery. Disaster survivors are grateful to learn a few techniques to salvage cherished items. HENTF staff also gain an understanding of the trauma of disaster and come away with respect for the resilience of disaster survivors.

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Last updated March 17, 2021