Tuesday, October 3rd, 2023

OPR in Cedar Rapids: Day 1


One street of businesses in the Czech Village of Cedar Rapids, Iowa is still recovering after the flood. As one person said, many places are cleaned up and gutted, but not many are rebuilt. (Photo by Vicky Sutterfield)

The streets of Cedar Rapids, Iowa still show signs of the flood. As one visitor to the Operation Photo Rescue copy-run site at the African American Museum said, much is cleaned up and gutted, but not as much rebuilt. (Photo by Vicky Sutterfield)

Day 1 went well!
We got settled into the African American Museum of Iowa in Cedar Rapids this morning, after heading to the KGAN television station for an early morning interview with Margie Hayes (President).  With one copy-stand for the morning, and setting up another in the afternoon, there was a slow intake of community members with photographs, but gave us time to gather the museum’s photos that were damaged in the flooding.
Throughout the day two more television stations did interviews, as well as the The Gazette (newspaper that did a nice article on OPR) and Iowa Public Radio.  That on top of Margie doing an interview yesterday, and other calendar postings, emails sent, press releases, etc., we hear we will get a large turnout tomorrow (Saturday).
“Can you smell the flood?” one television cameraman said.
It’s true: the photos, albums, and pages after the waters came and went have a smell.  Like dirt and mud and mold and something I can’t seem to describe… like what’s left in a dried up puddle… but bigger.  “Once you smell it, you never forget it.”
It was a day filled with looking at history in the photographs of the museum, getting everyone ready on the organization of photo intake, some hugs and tears and tremendous stories, some laughs with one another as volunteers got to know each other.

Albums with pages that are stuck together were sifted through as members of the community slowly but steadily stopped by the African America Museum of Iowa to visit Operation Photo Rescue and see what could be done to restore their photographs.

An album of photos is peeled apart and looked through to see what possibilities there are for restoration. (Photo by Jan Neil)

One woman that touched us brought in photos from her brother’s house as a last resort before they were to be thrown away.  Page by page we turned through the albums and picked out what we thought could be salvaged, either by her or by us.  With tears in her crystal blue eyes, she told us about the flood (her house made it through), shared some stories behind the photos, where the children in the photographs are now, and how she was going to give photos salvaged to the loved ones in the them.  On her way home, she was so kind to think of us and bring back some Czech pastries from a bakery in Cedar Rapids.  Such a sweet surprise, and a truly kind and appreciated gesture!
And that’s just one from throughout the day.  It’s always hard when photos are too far-gone for OPR to take on, and hurts our hearts when there is nothing more we can do.  But still so rewarding is when we are able to tell someone that we can restore their treasured photographs, knowing that our amazing network of volunteers are there.

Scott Crossen, from DigMyPics, a continued supporter of OPR by donating printing services, and his family are kicking off their fall vacation by helping with the copy-run!  Jan, Margie, Vickie and Katie are here as well, all plugging away on going through photographs, taking information, copying them with cameras, and inputting the data with the photographs.  Also, thank-you to all of those kind donors who helped fund this copy-run and keep OPR going!  A nice surprise Friday was a donation from Media Recover in the donation of image recovery software as well.  Thank-you for the support!

There is a continuous reminder of what makes OPR what it is: the volunteers.  I feel lucky that we can tell people that we can restore their photographs because we know full-well the talent of the volunteers in OPR and what they can accomplish.

Many of these folks held onto their damaged photographs, smell and all, for 15 months not sure what to do.  Now they know.

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