Symposium: Disaster Planning for Archives and their Communities

Contributed by Susan Duhl
October 7, 2013.
Location: Center for Jewish History, New York, NY
Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York, Inc. (ART)
Susan Duhl with AIC-CERT volunteer doing recovery
Susan Duhl with AIC-CERT volunteer doing recovery

The Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York, in conjunction with the Center for Jewish History, is organizing a one-day symposium with the aim of bringing together archivists, records managers, librarians, museum professionals, emergency responders, disaster recovery professionals, volunteers and the general public to address how professional and citizen archivists as well as related professionals can both better protect their collections from disaster and also become a resource for the larger community in disaster situations. 

Susan Duhl and Vicki Lee, Conservators, and volunteer AIC-CERT professionals with specialties in archives conservation and management are presenting

The American Institute for Conservation Collections Emergency Response Team (AIC-CERT) is a volunteer program run by the Foundation of AIC working with cultural institutions to respond to emergencies of all types. The teams’ experiences have coalesced into systematic preparation, response, salvage, and treatments to cultural collections affected by disaster situations.

National organizations, including AIC, Heritage Preservation, and the Federal Emergency Management Agency, are instrumental in developing disaster prevention, preparedness, and response protocols. This work became paramount after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and through disasters that have followed.

Immediately following Hurricane Sandy in October 2012 through March of 2013, AIC-CERT responded to artists and institutions affected by significant flooding. By March 2013, 23 AIC-CERT members volunteered 128 days in NY and NJ. Specialist experts disseminated guidance and salvaged collections to institutions, small galleries, and individual artists, especially those hard hit in low-lying neighborhoods of NYC. AIC-CERT and other volunteers continued working with at the Cultural Recovery Center in Brooklyn to triage and recover damaged art and archival collections, including the archives and costumes from the Martha Graham Dance Studio, the artwork and personal archives of artist, Ronnie Landfield, and many other artists.

AIC-CERT’s experiences include working well after disasters have passed, most notably in the years after Hurricane Katrina and the Haitian earthquake. Project management, treatment protocols, fundraising, and budgetary concerns continue well after an event occurs. This spectrum of experience has built a framework for successful protection of collections and creates effective measures of response to disastrous incidents.


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