Amidst the destruction and fast-changing nature of this year’s wildfires, UC Merced Library was able to answer a call for help.
On Monday afternoon, Ward Eldredge, curator for the Sequoia and Kings Canyon (SEKI) National Parks, contacted UC Merced librarian Emily Lin to inform her that he was preparing plans to evacuate the archives. The Castle Fire, part of the SQF Complex wildfire, had expanded considerably over the weekend and was approaching Dennison Ridge, near the southern boundary of Sequoia National Park and the park headquarters. Given the growth of the fire, he and other park employees had already begun to evacuate. Eldredge asked if the UC Merced Library had the ability to house any of the materials.
After saying yes, Lin worked with Eldredge and Associate University Librarian for Library Operations, Eric Scott, over the course of the next day to make arrangements. Because the Park Service had difficulty procuring moving services in such a short window of time, Scott coordinated with UC Merced Facilities Management to arrange for University Moving Services to assist with transport while organizing UC Merced Library staff to assist with unloading of the collections under COVID-19 restrictions.
National Park Service employees loading archival records on Tuesday afternoon (photo courtesy of Paul Hardwick, NPS). UC Merced Library staff unloading collections (photo by Rebecca Gourevitch).
An estimated 600 linear feet of documents capturing the history of the two national parks—as well as slide collections, herbaria collections and other artifacts—were transported safely to UC Merced. Sequoia National Park was established in 1890 as the second national park in this country, while Kings Canyon National Park was established in 1940, subsuming General Grant National Park. The two parks have been administered jointly since World War II and have played an important role in the development of fire management practices and modern understanding of fire’s role in healthy ecosystems.
Collections safely relocated to UC Merced Library (photos by Eric Scott and Rebecca Gourevitch).
Mutual interest in preserving important park records and expanding research access through digitization led to a loan of two of the Parks’ collections to UC Merced Library in 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting shutdown had put a pause in digitization plans. With this rescue, the Library and the Sequoia and Kings Canyon National Parks look to raise attention to the importance of saving and digitizing these valuable collections.
The Library would like to recognize the following UC Merced employees who assisted with transporting and unloading the collections:
Library Student Assistants
Facilities Management Team