The recent devastating fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris and last year’s fire at the National Museum of Brazil underscore how valuable and vulnerable a nation’s cultural heritage can be. Cultural heritage is not a renewable commodity; when it is gone, communities lose resources for economic development, tourism and commerce, as well as their shared identity, history and knowledge.
A new curriculum is available to help cultural institutions – museums, libraries, archives, historical societies, government records agencies and more – work with their first responders to build that all-important relationship at the local level and to write a disaster plan to protect the resources that these cultural institutions hold in the public trust.
“Finding Common Ground: Collaborative Training for the Cultural Heritage and Emergency Response Communities” was developed by the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners (MBLC) in conjunction with the Massachusetts Department of Fire Services with grant support from the National Endowment for the Humanities. The course package includes:
- Five pre-program preservation webinars to ensure all participants arrive with the same foundational knowledge.
- Training materials for the program’s five workshops.
- Slide decks and text for each in-person workshop.
- Checklists to help develop your own live burn and salvage exercise.
- Videos for the live burn and salvage workshops held in Massachusetts.
- Handouts for each workshop.
The pilot program was very successful in Massachusetts, with 198 out of a maximum possible 200 registrants. Nearly all participating institutions completed a risk assessment, at least 30 institutions completed disaster plans during the training, and cultural stewards expressed a dramatic increase in their comfort level responding to disasters. Most important, nearly every first responder felt more comfortable working with their local cultural stewards – and vice versa.