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Tuesday, May 17 • 10:30am - 11:00am
(Collection Care) Making it up as we go along: How we got it right by doing everything wrong

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In May 2015, as severe flash flooding was predicted for Central Texas, conservators recognized the risk for significant damage to personal collections and began to mobilize, quickly beginning an advice line and contacting the media and Red Cross with tips for salvage. They also ran salvage training classes for local library school students. In In a separate initiative, after a 500-year flood swept away the contents of hundreds of homes along the Blanco River, area archivists offered assistance to a local public library serving as an impromptu depository for found photographs. As the recovery began, the two projects converged. While the Incident Command System works well for institutional disasters, we found that for these smaller, personal disasters, an improvisational system with a fluid organizational structure enabled us to tap each individual's professional talent and expertise more effectively and provide a quick response that minimized damage to materials. Our disaster response efforts were not without obstacles--we grappled with the ethical issue of giving salvage advice to non-professionals who would likely never be able to afford a professional conservator to treat their personal collections and performed delicate diplomacy to manage the expectations of a community under great stress. In the end, we were able to perform a great service for our community and introduce our profession to the broader public who had likely never heard of it. At the same time, the experience forged a professional alliance that strengthened the bonds between archivists and conservators in the Central Texas area, helped archivists and students in our School of Information learn procedures for dealing with a disaster in their own institution, and provided invaluable lessons in the effective use of both traditional and social media outlets. While none of us looks forward to the next disaster, we are all optimistic that we can do an even better job next time.

avatar for Amy Bowman

Amy Bowman

Photo Archivist, Briscoe Center for American History, UT Austin
Amy Bowman is a photograph archivist at the Dolph Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin. Previously, she worked at the Oregon Historical Society and the National Museum of the Pacific War in Fredericksburg, Texas. She is a 2005 graduate of UT Austin’s School of Information.
avatar for Rebecca Elder

Rebecca Elder

Principal, Rebecca Elder Cultural Heritage Preservation
Rebecca Elder is an experienced cultural heritage preservation consultant with expertise in emergency preparedness and response. She is chair of the SAA's National Disaster Recover Fund for Archives grant review committee as well as member-at-large for the Preservation Section. Rebecca is also the national coordinator for AIC-CERT, the conservation community's volunteer disaster response team.

Tuesday May 17, 2016 10:30am - 11:00am
Room 516 AB

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