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On June 11, 1997, the National Task Force on Emergency Response announced an important development in the care and treatment of damaged collections at the nation's cultural institutions. At a press conference in Washington, D.C., the task force—a joint initiative of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Getty Conservation Institute, and the National Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Property (NIC)—presented its Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel. The salvage wheel is designed to provide staff at cultural institutions with immediate access to essential information on protecting and salvaging collections during the first 48 hours of an emergency. The wheel contains information developed and reviewed by preservation and conservation professionals, and endorsed by FEMA and seven other federal agencies and national organizations.

"Disasters can strike anywhere and destroy indiscriminately," noted FEMA director James Lee Witt. "We must do all we can to protect our nation's heritage for future generations. The salvage wheel is a terrific example of what we can accomplish with working partnerships like the National Task Force on Emergency Response."

Funding for the wheel was made possible through a public-private partnership, with major public funding provided by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) and private funding supplied by the St. Paul Companies and an anonymous private nonprofit foundation. "America's museums, libraries, and archives are the guardians of the nation's cultural heritage," said Sheldon Hackney, chairman of the NEH. "If significant portions of their holdings are lost to posterity through natural disasters, we as a nation lose parts of the American experience. The arrival of the salvage wheel meets a huge need for information that can minimize or, in some cases, even prevent any such loss."

The National Task Force on Emergency Response is a partnership of 29 government agencies and national service organizations committed to providing expert assistance to cultural institutions and the public in times of disaster. "We helped to establish the National Task Force in 1994 to mobilize our best resources to protect our nation's cultural heritage," said Miguel Angel Corzo, director of the GCI. "The wheel demonstrates what a successful public-private partnership can produce when the cultural community and emergency professionals activate collective resources for the common good."

NIC president Lawrence Reger said that "the Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel addresses one of the most significant goals of the Task Force: providing accurate and easily accessible information about preserving objects damaged by natural disaster."

The wheel will be distributed to 45,000 libraries, museums, archives, and historical organizations and sites. After the initial distribution to cultural institutions, the wheel will be available for purchase at a cost of $9.95 each (or at a nonprofit rate of $5.95 each), with the price including postage and handling. Reduced rates are available for orders of 10 or more. For order forms or information, call the toll-free number 1-888-979-2233, or write to the National Task Force on Emergency Response, 3299 K Street, NW, Washington, D.C. 20007.