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Disaster planning and recovery
All historical societies should consider how to protect their collections, buildings and people, and draw up a disaster plan which is appropriate to their particular circumstances.
The U.S. Heritage Emergency National Task Force website contains a wealth of advice and resources on disaster preparedness and recovery. Although primarily targeted at an American audience, it contains a great deal of material that Australian historical societies would find useful.
“Be prepared – guidelines for small museums for writing a disaster preparedness plan” was published by the Australian Heritage Collections Council in 2000. Whilst written for “small museums”, it is also relevant for historical societies, whether large or small. It contains a case study in disaster unpreparedness, and includes training needs, safety and damage checklists and templates based on established disaster plans.
“Be Prepared” can be downloaded in PDF format (461KB) using the above link. Alternatively, it can be accessed at the following site (which also includes further introductory material): http://www.collectionsaustralia.net.au/sector_info_item/2
Blue Shield Australia
The Blue Shield mission is 'to work to protect the world's cultural heritage threatened by armed conflict, natural and man-made disasters'. It is the cultural equivalent of the Red Cross. Blue Shield Australia was established in 2005 following approval by the International Committee of the Blue Shield (ICBS).
The ICBS covers archives (including audio-visual archives), libraries, monuments and sites, and museums (including art museums and galleries). It brings together the knowledge, experience and international networks of the expert organisations dealing with cultural heritage: a body of expertise which is available to advise and assist in responding to events such as the war in Iraq, the Indian Ocean tsunami in December 2004, and earthquake damage in Italy and China. The ICBS is international, independent and professional.
The FAHS is an Associate member of Blue Shield Australia. Blue Shield Australia is taking an active role in response to the floods in Australia in late 2010 and early 2011.
Storing collections in high bushfire risk areas
The Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Material has released an information sheet Storing collections in high bushfire risk areas, aimed at assisting individuals and those working with cultural collections to reduce the risks of fire when storing their precious possessions.
Since Black Saturday, we all recognise that fires of a catastrophic degree can cause damage on a scale previously unimagined. However, stories have emerged that some treasures did survive, even paper items. While not a guarantee that items will not suffer damage, minimising risk through the storage methods recommended in the information sheet may offer some hope for items that have to be left behind on evacuation.
If you are affected by fires, you should retain damaged keepsakes that are still recognisable, even if damaged and dirty, as they may be salvageable. Consult a conservator before you throw them away. Conservators can be contacted via the AICCM website or through state and national cultural institutions. The AICCM is the professional organisation for conservators in Australia.
The AICCM website contains further information about the handling and care of salvaged items, particularly those damaged by fire or water.