Back on Earth, Southern Mutual Help Association (SMHA) is a prime example of an organization taking action to protect the legacy it maintains.
SMHA is a not-for-profit organization based in rural Louisiana. Their mission is to build strong, healthy and prosperous communities, focusing efforts on the low-income families that stand to benefit most from its support.
From establishing the first medical and dental clinic for sugarcane farm workers in the 1960s, to providing disaster relief and rebuilding after the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita, SMHA has acted as an advocate and ally for people in need for nearly 50 years.
The organization has also challenged the forces of poverty, racism, sexism and classism at every turn — by waging court battles, influencing policy and taking on lawmakers.All of these efforts have generated laudable results — SMHA has received more than 60 awards for its work over the years. It also amassed a huge library of historical documents such as letters, case studies, lawsuits and congressional hearing transcripts along the way.
These records are vital to SMHA because they represent the narrative fabric of the mission and what it has accomplished. The organization's work requires a nuanced understanding of the region's history and these are records critical for developing that in the next generation of leaders.
All of these records were archived in more than 350 boxes in offsite storage for years. Given the region's susceptibility to hurricanes and flooding, they had to be loaded into rented vans and transported to safety at the first hint of inclement weather. The association's leadership recognized that this was not a sustainable process and decided to do something more permanent.