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Monday, May 16 • 4:00pm - 4:30pm
(General Session: Get Ready, Get Set - Emergency Preparedness) Beyond Response: Christchurch Art Gallery's Recovery from the Canterbury Earthquakes

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Beyond Response explores the aftermath of the Canterbury earthquakes (2010 -2011) referencing the Christchurch Art Gallery's immediate response to a series of devastating events, and the obstacles an organisation might face when recovering from a citywide disaster. While the content of this paper makes specific reference to seismic risk, parallels can be drawn between this disaster and others. Almost immediately and for several months following a particularly crippling earthquake that claimed lives, homes and entire suburbs, the Gallery found itself within a cordon and the base for the Government led emergency response team who occupied exhibition spaces and all back of house areas, excluding storage. Access on the premise that exhibitions needed to be deinstalled was extended to allow the assessment and in some cases the salvage of broken and wet works both in storage and on display, including the stabilisation of works in response to ongoing aftershocks. The knock-on effects of the main event soon became clear when months later a neighbouring fourteen storey apartment block was subject to an urgent demolition notice ordered by authorities, resulting in the emergency relocation of the entire collection from all storage areas to an area within the building away from the apartment's fall zone. Logistically challenging, the collection comprising of over 6500 works was safely relocated without incident, in a matter of weeks. As months passed and liquefied land settled, it became apparent that the Gallery had suffered significant damage resulting in a complex repair at considerable expense for insurers who contested aspects of the claim, thus delaying remediation works. In 2013 repairs commenced, starting with the relevelling of the Gallery, followed by retrospective base isolation, the repair of thousands of glass panes that form the façade, plus repairs to all internal works, including mechanical and electrical systems. With no alternative site available and despite risks arising from construction, the collection has remained onsite at all times. Reflecting on the realities associated with response and recovery, the disaster plan was refined to include realistic response guidelines. A priority list was compiled using an effective assessment methodology, the contents of disaster bins were rethought, relationships between the Gallery and emergency services were established, facility handbooks were written and communication plans were clearly articulated and tested. Short-term response plans were expanded to include long-term business viability strategies. In the face of adversity, the Gallery displayed resilience and determination: pop-up exhibition spaces were established, significant works were acquired through new funding models, funds were secured to complete betterment works to the facility, and well over 90% of the collection is now accessible online. Almost five years on and transitional plans are replaced by a sense of permanence, ending a lengthy period of uncertainty. Due to reopen in 2016, the Gallery will find itself operating in a new city where recovery is slow and seldom straightforward. Beyond Response charts this journey, detailing how the Gallery responded to and more often than not, successfully managed the unexpected.

avatar for Gina Irish

Gina Irish

Registrar, Christchurch Art Gallery
Gina Irish leads the Registration team at Christchurch Art Gallery, Christchurch, New Zealand. The team are responsible for core collection management tasks, as well as contributing to the successful delivery of exhibitions. A primary focus for Gina and her team has been the repair... Read More →

Monday May 16, 2016 4:00pm - 4:30pm EDT
Room 710 A