I am responding to the article “Baton Rouge diocese archivist describes efforts to salvage records damaged in Hurricane Katrina,” which ran in The Advocate on June 21. While much of the article does a good job describing our part in helping rescue and salvage the wet records of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, a few matters were reported inaccurately.
First, the author states that “the majority of the records were left behind and sat in contaminated water and humid buildings for weeks.” This is simply not true.
Out of the 151 churches and missions that made up the Archdiocese of New Orleans in August 2005, only 11 church parishes had records that were damaged by floodwaters. By and large, the majority of the sacramental records of the archdiocese were unharmed and well cared for during and after the storm.
The efforts to save these records were spearheaded by Dr. Emelie Leumas, who was archivist of the Diocese of Baton Rouge at the time of the storm and has since taken over that same position with the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Dr. Leumas’ efforts and the countless hours donated by diocesan staff and volunteers made this recovery possible.
Also, the author states that “the books remain at the archives in Baton Rouge.” The records that were damaged by the hurricane and resulting flooding belong to the Archdiocese of New Orleans. These damaged records were returned and are being cared for by the Office of Archdiocesan Archives and Records, not by the Diocese of Baton Rouge Archives.
I request that The Advocate clarify this misinformation both in print and online.
Ann T. Boltin
archivist, Catholic Diocese of Baton Rouge