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Monday, May 16 • 9:30am - 10:00am
(Emergency) Renovating the disaster preparedness plan of the renovated Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam

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With the upcoming reopening of the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam after a 9 years renovation in 2013, a review of the disaster preparedness plan was necessary. The disaster plan of the museum was over 10 years old and although it functioned well, the prospect of moving back 8000 objects into new and unfamiliar showcases, with new hanging systems in a changed museum building with many new members of staff, was not to be under estimated. The basic concept of the old plan was simple: Any damage or possible damage to the collection is reported to the so-called collection coordinator on duty. The collection coordinator being a member of staff with knowledge of art handling, knowledge of the museum organization and the ability to stay calm in stressfull situations. The new plan: A clear definition between ‘incident’ and ‘calamity’ was introduced to make the organization in moments of stress during unusual events such as the rescue of damaged or endangered art more effective. An incident is defined as an event that can be managed by the staff of the museum and the normal state of affairs in the museum can continue with only minor disruption. If the rescue operation can not be managed by the staff and/or the state of affair has to be interrupted, it is called a calamity and the crisis team is mobilized. This gives the collection coordinator on duty the authority to act quickly and is therefore more efficient. If the situation can’t be handled with the people available it also creates the possibility to ‘upscale’ the rescue operation quickly. In the months before the reopening around 80 new members of the security staff received an in company training. Half a day of the course was reserved for the prevention, and reporting and assisting in the first recovery. Over 80 % of all incidents is first noted by members of the security staff. Raising the awareness of the security staff is vital to the success of any disaster plan. A new registration system of incidents and calamities to the collection was introduced: code yellow. Collection coordinators were trained to prepare for the new situation, for example how to open show cases in case of an emergency and evacuation of objects. Looking back at the first year: Record breaking visitor numbers showed that some of the routes in the galleries were too crowded and therefore a danger to objects and people. The introduction of an annual report and evaluation of all incidents combined with recommendations for improvement proved to be effective. Challenges for the future: Better relationships with local authorities are to be established. Extreme whether conditions in the summer of 2014 showed the museum’s vulnerability. A new risk assessment on this specific risk was carried out. Implementing the advised improvements based on risk assessment of a recently renovated building are not easy to sell. Keeping the constantly changing security staff well trained proved to be a challenge too, designing a program of exercises and drills is in progress.

avatar for Idelette Van Leeuwen

Idelette Van Leeuwen

Head of paper conservation, Rijksmuseum
Idelette van Leeuwen graduated as a book and paper conservator at the State Training School of Conservation in Amsterdam in 1989. After working on some short conservation projects in the Dutch Institute in Rome and the Municipal Archives in Amsterdam she took a position as senior... Read More →

Monday May 16, 2016 9:30am - 10:00am EDT
Room 513 A/C