Each year, millions of Americans discover the cherished collections of maps, quilts, recordings, paintings, and countless other gems held in our libraries, museums, archives, historic houses, and gardens. From the schoolchild to the scholar, these priceless pieces of our past serve to enlighten, inform, and inspire. They help to give our communities a sense of place and identity.
But just as these chapters bear testimony to our rich past, so, too, they are being erased from our memory.
In communities around the country, from Bridgeport to Biloxi, museums and libraries face losing their collections for good because of neglect and everyday threats like exposure to light, humidity, abnormal temperatures, and infestation. A 2005 study co-sponsored by IMLS, called A Public Trust at Risk: The Heritage Health Index Report on the State of America’s Collections found that nearly 190 million objects in U.S. collections are in immediate danger and need our help. Once we lose these collections, we sadly cannot get them back, a possibility with profound impact for future generations of learners.
With this in mind, the Institute launched Connecting to Collections in 2007, a national initiative to raise public awareness of the importance of caring for our treasures, and to underscore the fact that these collections are essential to the American story.
From special conservation grants to national forums serving local museums and libraries, each component of the initiative connects to recommendations made within the Heritage Health Index report. In short, Connecting to Collections is not just about saving objects, but about the legacy we leave to our own children and grandchildren.
In 1823, Thomas Jefferson would write that it was "the duty of every good citizen to use all the opportunities which occur to him… or her, for preserving documents relating to the history of our country." This is what we hope to help communities do.
In our nation’s collections we find a window to our past and a looking glass to the future. By conserving them and making them accessible to our communities, they become a storyteller whose memory never fades. To learn more about this pressing issue and this exciting initiative, please explore the Connecting to Collections Web site.