Sunday, February 15, 2009

Assignment 4: Disaster Preparedness Plans - Comparison between Museum & Library

Recent events, such as September 11, 2001, Hurricane Katrina, and the major floods in Iowa, have reinforced the fact that no structure is immune to natural or man-made disasters. For museums, archives, and libraries--charged with maintaining and preserving our nation's heritage--this message is an unavoidable challenge. Institutions of all natures are called upon to develop and implement disaster preparedness plans that: 1) ensure the safety of human occupants; and 2) prevent, mitigate, and respond to all manner of threats to collection materials.

Fruitless searching for specific museum disaster plans revealed a distinct demarcation between Museum and Library websites in terms of the amount of information offered about their "behind-the-scenes" operations. While some museum websites, such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the MoMA, and others, host sections devoted to their conservation departments, these typically highlight high-profile treatments or general background information about conservation topics.

In contrast to this state of affairs, libraries, particularly large university or other research institutions, frequently provide detailed information pertaining to preservation and conservation philosophies, as well as specific guidelines and protocols for different types of treatments, including disaster plans.

To be sure, no shortage of general information about disaster preparedness for museums exists. It is more than likely that most museums, in order to fulfill their culturally-determined mandates, as well as to meet insurance and legal stipulations, have carefully-considered disaster plans in place. But perhaps due to different attitudes or expectations concerning museums and libraries, the former curates its public information far more selectively than the latter

Selected list of excellent online resources for disaster preparedness in cultural institutions:

Museum SOS
Smithsonian Museum Conservation
Smithsonian Institution Archives
Heritage Preservation

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