May 23, 2022

Smithsonian: A National Museum of American History Blog Post Looks at “Collecting in the Wake of Hurricane Katrina”

From a NMAH “Oh Say Can You See” Blog Post by Erin Blasco:

Late curator David Shayt of the museum’s Work and Industry division once said, “All museum work in one form or another is digging in the dirt. We dig in the dirt of old factories to find old machines and blue prints. We dig in musty film vaults to find old films. . . . It’s a process of digging, and searching, and looking for the unknown, the unexpected.”

So when Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast in August 2005, Shayt said it was “a natural response for me to take interest . . . thinking about ways of preserving what quickly became a national tragedy, not just a local or regional event but one with truly national scope. And that’s why we got involved.”

For the tenth anniversary of the devastating hurricane, listen to an interview with Shayt in our History Explorer podcast. You’ll find out why the museum responded by collecting objects and learn about a few of the things Shayt and his team collected. (Educators, there’s also a teacher guide to help you share the interview with your students.)

The complete blog post includes several images and concludes with links to see and learn more about objects from the museum’s Hurricane Katrina collection online.

Other objects collected in the wake of Hurricane Katrina can be found in our online collections database. Photographer Hugh Talman spoke about his experience photographing the devastation in a video by Folkways Magazine.

About Gary Price

Gary Price ( is a librarian, writer, consultant, and frequent conference speaker based in the Washington D.C. metro area. Before launching INFOdocket, Price and Shirl Kennedy were the founders and senior editors at ResourceShelf and DocuTicker for 10 years. From 2006-2009 he was Director of Online Information Services at, and is currently a contributing editor at Search Engine Land.