Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art

The Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi, Mississippi, sustained serious damage when Hurricane Katrina roared ashore in August 2005. Because of an emergency plan, the museum’s collection of pottery by artist George Ohr and collection of contemporary American ceramics—including works by Paul Soldner and Toshiko Takaezu—weathered the storm safely in a secure building and were then evacuated to the Mobile Museum of Art in Alabama.

The museum’s nineteenth-century historic frame house, Pleasant Reed, used to interpret African-American life in the early twentieth century, was washed away by the storm surge—only its chimney remains. Work began right away to salvage library materials and art objects, such as those by folk artist Mose Toliver, that had sustained water and mold damage.

Conservators from the University of Delaware’s Winterthur Conservation Program visited to give advice on the treatment of damaged materials, and the university has received grant funding to conserve some of the most damaged objects. The museum also received a $30,000 National Endowment for the Humanities grant to support the recovery, cleaning, and conservation treatment of artifacts, as well as assessment and temporary storage of the collections.