Have you ever wondered what would happen if your home or dorm room flooded? Or an electrical surge fried your laptop? Do you know how to care for damaged electronics, papers, books, textiles and art? Do you know where you have stored all those items which you consider irreplaceable? These are the sorts of situations many library, archives and museum (LAM) professionals prepare for in the hopes they will never have to use their skills. MayDay, part of national Preservation Week, is a call to action – a day when individuals and LAM professionals take personal and professional responsibility for doing something simple – something that can be accomplished in a day but that can have a significant impact on one’s ability to respond to a natural disaster.
Protecting our collections so we can continue to provide access to these resources is one of the fundamental responsibilities of LAMs across the globe. In 2005, after hurricanes Katrina, Rita, and Wilma struck the Gulf Coast, Heritage Preservation partnered with the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS) to release A Public Trust at Risk: The Heritage Health Index. This report is the result of surveying over 30,000 libraries, archives, museums, historical societies, scientific research collections and archaeological repositories large and small in every state and U.S. territory. It found:
Here at the Oliver Wendell Holmes Library and Archives & Special Collections, we share both a building and a disaster plan. We work closely with Public Safety and the Office of the Physical Plant to ensure first and foremost the safety of our students and visitors but also our collections. We also have professional archivists on staff who are trained in collections care and disaster response. As part of our upcoming strategic planning process we intend to review this plan to bring it up to date with current local policies and procedures as well as national best practices. Additionally we are in the process of conducting a space assessment (focusing on, collaborative learning space, accessibility of technology, security, and environmental control) which is aimed at creating recommendations on how best to utilize and upgrade our existing space given the changing needs of students and the rapidly evolving nature of LAMs institutions.
Take a moment to think – what would happen if your home or dorm room experienced a fire, flood or other natural disaster?
The first step in planning for disaster response is assessment:
The next step involves making a plan, so consider:
The final step is to learn more about what to do and where to go for help in the event of a natural disaster:
And remember, a disaster doesn’t have to be catastrophic like a hurricane or tornado to cause irreparable harm to valuable collections ; it can be as small and isolated as a squirrel who decides chew through a box of old family photographs in the attic to make a nest.
This MayDay, know thy enemy and get planning! Together we can do our part to make sure our history, both personal and cultural, is safe and secure.
The National Archives: Preservation | http://www.archives.gov/preservation/
MayDay! Heritage Preservation | http://www.heritagepreservation.org/mayday/
COSTEP MA (Coordinated Statewide Emergency Preparedness in Massachusetts) | http://mblc.state.ma.us/costepma/
Northeast Document Conservation Center | http://www.nedcc.org/working-with-nedcc/overview
Preservation @ your Library | http://www.atyourlibrary.org/passiton