Thursday, August 21, 2008

From the Preservation Lab Intern

As part of ongoing pamphlet binding work performed this summer, I turned up documents from the Massachusetts Civil Defense Agency (MCDA) and the Massachusetts Committee on Public Safety. Those with an interest in National Security issues at the end of World War II and the beginning of the Cold War era may find this information interesting. The purpose of civil defense as stated in the pamphlet is: "to minimize the effects of enemy attacks or major disaster upon the people, property, industry and commerce of the Commonwealth."

The Organization Plan includes a map and organization chart that specifies which agency has responsibility for which region and the services provided within that region (medical, water supplies, rebuilding, etc.). It also contains an appendix with the Administrative Orders designating this responsibility and the date the order was issued.

The MCDA coordinated efforts with the Federal government in order to most efficiently cover the state's emergency needs. Some of the wording of the document is specific to the Cold War era (nuclear fallout shelters) but as the main purpose of the document is to give an accounting of which agencies are responsible for the welfare of the citizenry during a disaster, much of the information is still pertinent.

The Committee on Public Safety document is a report on air raid alarm signals. It rates the alarm's effectiveness in terms of sound and how it carries in a specific urban area in order to gauge how well the signal would travel during "air raids, blackouts, fire and contingent emergencies." The detailed testing of different air horns is meticulously graphed and reported in order to provide the best equipment to the community during wartime (1941).

As the binding on the Organization Plan is quite firmly attached, I merely built a four flap document enclosure to protect it and provide support. I removed staples and sewed most of the other documents in this group.

-Denise Anderson, Preservation Intern