Monday, April 23, 2007

Guest Blogger

Today, an article from guest blogger, Tommie Rodgers, Registrar at the Museum. This article also appeared in the Laurel Leader-Call:

May Day: Saving Our Archives

The phrase “May Day” can reference a day of fun around the maypole as people celebrate the arrival of Spring or it can mean a call for help from pilots and ship captains. But for museums and libraries, it means a little of both. The Heritage Emergency National Task Force asks institutions to celebrate May Day on May 1st to remind us to be prepared for natural disasters that could occur during the upcoming hurricane season or any time of year. Cultural institutions are being asked to set aside this day to take action to be prepared for unknown disasters. And while our preparations are different than the preparations you might take at home, I ask that you also set aside this day to plan to protect yourself, your collections, your family photos, your home, and most importantly, your family from natural disasters.

Here at the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art, I am currently working on revising our Disaster Plan and incorporating the new information that we’ve gleaned from our past hurricane preparations. We’ve learned that our building is a fortress against powerful winds and we can offer temporary storage assistance to museums along the Gulf Coast and New Orleans. We’ve become quite efficient in knowing which art objects to move, where to move them and when to tie down or move outdoor sculptures. During the 2005 hurricane season, we “prepared” the collection for a hurricane four times during that Summer but Katrina became our only real threat.

We also learned that being in downtown Laurel, we are fortunate enough to receive the needed electricity quickly to keep the collections at a reasonable temperature to prevent mold and mildew from growing. And, while meeting with other museum and library staff across the state in the past year, I’ve become aware that our own circumstances are much better than many other institutions.

The Lauren Rogers Museum of Art is also in the preparation phase of re-accreditation by the American Association of Museums. This process requires us to address, review, update, or create policies every ten years. One step in updating the Disaster Plan includes the purchase of disaster supplies. Most supplies such as plastic sheeting, cardboard sheets, flashlights, garbage cans, plastic bags, etc. are usually here but not necessarily put in one place. There are other items that need to be added to the list such as extra mops, masks, extra batteries, rubber gloves and boots. Items such as waxed paper for wet paper documents and plastic crates for wet books are materials that we may need. According to the recommended list, there seems to be no way to have on hand all the extras for every possible disaster, so we’ll have to make choices in what we obtain.

Now there’s another issue of having a staff member on site during the disaster. We don’t normally keep a stocked kitchen, but someone may need to stay here for days at a time if another hurricane threat is favorable, so food and bedding will be supply items as well.

Here are a few tasks that you can do on May Day to prepare yourself:

Make sure your insurance records, birth certificates, social security cards, and other important documents are in plastic and can be retrieved to carry with you to another location and have a set of copies in a different location.

Stock your food pantry with non-perishables.

Stock up on bottled water.

Put family photos in a lidded plastic container that can be moved away from the floor, basement, attic or upper room.

Have a month’s supply of medication in a zip-lock bag.

Make an evacuation plan and contact out-of-state family in case you need to leave the area.

Keep a full tank of gas in your car and don’t wait until the last minute to fill up.

Have a family drill and discuss your actions.

Stock up on batteries and flashlights.

Buy a portable radio.

These are a few things you can do to remind yourself that taking the threat of a disaster seriously is important and being prepared is smart. Remember to celebrate May Day with positive thoughts of knowing that you’ll be ready should you be in harm’s way in the future.

May Day is a project of The Heritage Emergency National Task Force and is co-sponsored by Heritage Preservation and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Tommie Rodgers is the registrar at the Lauren Rogers Museum of Art.

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