Our tour of the coastal Point neighborhood in Newport, Rhode Island covered colonial history, architecture, and a recent neighborhood concern: flooding. Heavy rainfall and storm surges in Narragansett Bay flood the streets and the basements of houses, leading some homeowners to raise the foundations of their centuries-old homes.  As activists we focus on preventing climate change, but Keeping History Above Water, sponsored by the Newport Restoration Foundation from April 10-13, presented a disorienting idea: climate change has already happened, and sea level rise is a problem now.

Preservationists, scientists, architects, activists, documentarians, public sector workers, politicians, and others addressed sea level rise from a multitude of perspectives. Adam Markham highlighted the National Landmarks at Risk report created by the Union of Concerned Scientists in partnership with cultural organizations. Attendees from the Netherlands, Iran, Italy, and Kirabati as well as towns all over the United States shared the impacts of climate change on their homes and heritage. Project ARCC presented a poster and had excellent conversations with attendees, many of whom had not thought about the role of archives in preservation and scientific efforts. You can read more coverage of the conference by checking out our Storify or the #historyabovewater hashtag on Twitter and Instagram. (The NRF Instagram featured a great image of Rose viewing one of the displays!)

Project ARCC’s mission to protect collections fits into efforts to protect built, inhabited, and natural environments. Matthew Pelz of the Galveston Historical Foundation used historical photographs and maps to illustrate how Galveston’s landscape has changed, and how a culture once incredibly adaptable and accustomed to moving houses has become more permanent and therefore less resilient.  The example of Galveston raises some questions for archivists – how can we be more resilient in our actions, and how can we better document flexible communities?

Marcy Rockman, Climate Change Adaptation Coordinator for the National Parks Service, echoed Pelz’s inquiry of how people in the past dealt with environmental change. The NPS has taken a stand to “say the C word” in its planning and advocacy, publishing Using Scenarios to Explore Climate Change in 2013. Cultural heritage was not considered in major reports and frameworks regarding climate change risk until recently, but efforts such as the US/ICOMOS Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction have made strides to incorporate cultural heritage preservation into the global climate change agenda.

Archaeologist Tom Dawson spoke about his work with Scottish Coastal Heritage at Risk documenting, protecting, and even moving archaeological sites threatened by erosion caused by changing seas. Citizen science reports and 3D models are vital to SCHARP’s work. The variety of data that supports preservation projects are vast, and archivists have an opportunity to facilitate the access, preservation, and use of information by people doing this important work.

Preserving the narratives of climate change requires cultural sensitivity. Pam Rubinoff of the University of Rhode Island’s Coastal Resources Center presented an image depicting houses on arks, prompting an audience member to ask, “Whose culture gets to go on the ‘ark’ of preservation?” Documentarian Sara Penrhyn Jones addressed this concern in describing her interviews with people in the island nation of Kirabati, already suffering the effects of sea level rise. She argued for the adoption of the language of human rights when discussing climate change.

The development of climate change communication and narratives is key; open communication channels must develop between different geographies and disciplines. Keeping History Above Water showed us the vastness of the spectrum of work addressing climate change, and the need for archivists to support the information and communication needs of these efforts.

— Genna Duplisea & Rose Oliveira

We’re proud to announce that ProjectARCC member and Protect Committee Chair Eira Tansey recently published an open-access article in the journal Sustainability: Science, Practice, & Policy (SSPP). The article is titled Archival adaptation to climate change, and can be accessed online for free.

The latest issue for Winter 2015 includes another article featuring sustainability in libraries. Managing Editor of SSPP wrote in an introduction to these two articles that “[m]any LIS professionals understand that they have the unique advantage of addressing sustainability issues both from the physicality of the library and intellectually as information and knowledge managers. Climate change, a factual mediator of sustainability, can pose a major threat to both objectives.”

The article was written for a general non-archivist audience about how climate change will intersect with American archives, with a particular focus on the dangers posed to short and long-term continuity of operations. The article ends with a call for a broader research agenda on several issues.

 

Congratulations, Eira, and thank you for continuing the research in our field. Share with your friends, scholars, students, and researchers to keep the conversation moving.

— Dana Gerber-Margie, blog coordinator

This post was written by Heather Widener, communications director for the Virginia Association of Museums, who has been with the organization for 12 years. She can be reached at hwidener@vamuseums.org.

News headlines flare up now and again over the persistent and troubling issue of climate change. It is easy to feel that these predictions are “far off” or that we are helpless against the shifting realities of the world. Virginia Climate Fever: How Global Warming Will Transform our Cities, Shorelines, and Forests, written by Stephen P. Nash, brings these realities home for Virginians – particularly those who act as stewards of our historic and cultural landscapes.
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The Virginia Association of Museums (VAM) recently held its annual conference in Williamsburg, Virginia. One of our most popular conferences, this year’s event drew over 450 museum professionals and service providers from around the Commonwealth and beyond. One of the conference’s exciting draws was Nash, our keynote speaker. Nash is a journalist and the Visiting Senior Research Scholar in the Journalism Department at the University of Richmond and author of Virginia Climate Fever. During the keynote speech, Nash discussed potential impacts of climate change on Virginia’s coastal historic, cultural, and archaeological sites.

Says Lisa Martin, senior program director at Reynolds Homestead, “Global warming has always been a concern for me, but I’ve always thought of it in terms of how it might impact the natural history of our nation and world. Stephen Nash brought home with urgency the cultural impact that climate change will have on our museums, historical sites, and archaeological digs. To imagine the history that could be lost with nearly 200 sites in Virginia alone being affected really makes the issue of environmental change a topline concern for those of us who work in these fields. His presentation was impactful, pertinent, and engaging.”

Combining nearly 30 years of scientific research with data from the Department of Historic Preservation and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Nash’s presentation addressed climate trends, physical strategies for adapting to sea level rise, and advocacy to keep Virginia’s historic resources at the forefront of our state’s climate policy.

“Climate change is already upon us but we still have time to work out good plans in the face of it, and avoid making the worst of it. We have responsibilities to each other, to the natural systems we depend on, and to Virginia’s landscape, one of surpassing richness and beauty.” – Stephen P. Nash, Virginia Climate Fever

The Virginia Association of Museums (VAM) is a statewide network serving the museum community. VAM has over 2,000 members, including individuals, businesses, and member organizations, ranging from historic houses to botanical gardens, aquariums, zoos, children’s museums, historical societies, art museums and galleries, battlefields, military museums, and more. Our vision is a united museum community inspiring the world around us. Learn more at www.vamuseums.org.

ProjectARCC welcomes Linda Tadic, CEO of Digital Bedrock, on our first anniversary. A year ago today a group of archivists came together to discuss our profession’s future and the Earth’s future. Happy anniversary and happy Earth Day!

At the Paris Climate Change talks (COP21) in December 2015, 195 countries signed a non-binding agreement to lower their greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) by 2100. While the world celebrated the unanimous vote, and there is no denying the importance the conference had in raising the profile of climate change, it is clear that the agreement didn’t go far enough.

COP21’s goal: Get countries to promise to decrease their greenhouse gas emissions (GHG) so the global temperature won’t rise above 2° C (3.6° F) by 2100. That temperature increase is scientifically accepted as the threshold for catastrophic climate change. Prior to the conference, countries submitted the GHG emission levels they believed they could achieve (Intended Nationally Determined Contributions, or INDCs). However, the INDCs are disappointing and outright deadly: if countries only achieve what they propose, the global temperature will rise 3.5° C (6.3° F) by 2100. A critical part of the agreement states that countries will aim to lower their GHG emissions lower than their INDC, but those are just words with no actionable steps behind them.

A minimum of 55 countries must sign the agreement on Earth Day 2016 for the agreement to become binding, and there is no guarantee the minimum signatures will be achieved. The US Supreme Court recently voted to put a stay on President Obama’s regulation of coal plants pending the results of a lower court ruling, which puts the US involvement in COP21 at risk. This decision caused large GHG emitting countries such as China and India to doubt the US seriousness to the Paris agreement; they had agreed to sign only if the US showed serious efforts.

Climate change is too serious an issue to be left to national governments to solve alone. Where positive change is occurring is with more nimble entities: local governments (states/provinces, cities), industry, individuals, and investors. Investors are increasingly not investing in oil and coal, but in renewable energy since that’s the future in this New Climate Economy. Aviation, transportation, and ICT industries are enacting technological efficiencies to decrease their industries’ GHG emissions.

Archives intersect with ICT through our use of hardware and energy. Our hardware and network choices in how we store and manage digital content, the energy devices used, and our digital preservation actions impact the environment.

In 2015, I gave a series of presentations on the environmental impact of digital preservation at conferences for SEAPAVAA (Singapore), IASA (Paris), and AMIA (Portland, Oregon). The slides and background research and notes are available for download at the Digital Bedrock website. The documents will be updated from time to time with the recent version date noted.

What we do as individuals and archival custodians can impact the wider world. In a talk at UCLA on January 12, 2016, Mary Robinson, former president of Ireland and the UN Envoy for Climate Change, referred to “climate justice,” eg, climate change + social injustice. Fighting climate change is a personal, political, and social battle that must be fought on all fronts at our disposal, including the choices we make with our technology and preserving our collections.

— Linda Tadic

Questions? Comments? Email: ltadic@digitalbedrock.com

 

 

As ProjectARCC has demonstrated, sustainability has become increasingly important in the archival community. The sustainability coordinator, Bomin Kim, and archivist, Aliza Leventhal, at Sasaki Associates have joined up to study how archives can approach sustainability from a “triple bottom line” approach; looking at impacts on social, environmental, and financial concerns.

We are asking questions such as:

  • How can archival spaces be more sustainable?
  • What impact does a geographic or climate region have on an archival space’s ability to be simultaneously more energy efficient, comfortable, and cost effective?
  • And, what impact do occupant controlled environmental features (ex. blinds, thermostat, lights) have on an institution’s budget?

In order to start answering those questions we need to know more about the existing archival spaces and need your help!

Please respond to our brief (10-15 minute) survey that asks for specifics about your holdings, facilities, indoor comfort, as well as what sustainability means to your institution. With this information we aim to develop generalized regional case studies to create best practice guidelines on a sliding scale of sustainability can be achieved for archives of varying sizes and locations.

We will be sharing the results of this survey, as well as our sliding scale guidelines later this fall.

Please click here to start the survey

Call for Proposals

Libraries and Archives in the Anthropocene: A Colloquium
May 13-14, 2017
New York University
Website: http://litwinbooks.com/laac2017colloq.php

As stewards of a culture’s collective knowledge, libraries and archives are facing the realities of cataclysmic environmental change with a dawning awareness of its unique implications for their missions and activities. Some professionals in these fields are focusing new energies on the need for environmentally sustainable practices in their institutions. Some are prioritizing the role of libraries and archives in supporting climate change communication and influencing government policy and public awareness. Others foresee an inevitable unraveling of systems and ponder the role of libraries and archives in a world much different from the one we take for granted. Climate disruption, peak oil, toxic waste, deforestation, soil salinity and agricultural crisis, depletion of groundwater and other natural resources, loss of biodiversity, mass migration, sea level rise, and extreme weather events are all problems that indirectly threaten to overwhelm civilization’s knowledge infrastructures, and present information institutions with unprecedented challenges.

This colloquium will serve as a space to explore these challenges and establish directions for future efforts and investigations. We invite proposals from academics, librarians, archivists, activists, and others.

Some suggested topics and questions:

  • How can information institutions operate more sustainably?
  • How can information institutions better serve the needs of policy discussions and public awareness in the area of climate change and other threats to the environment?
  • How can information institutions support skillsets and technologies that are relevant following systemic unraveling?
  • What will information work look like without the infrastructures we take for granted?
  • How does information literacy instruction intersect with ecoliteracy?
  • How can information professionals support radical environmental activism?
  • What are the implications of climate change for disaster preparedness?
  • What role do information workers have in addressing issues of environmental justice?
  • What are the implications of climate change for preservation practices?
  • Should we question the wisdom of preserving access to the technological cultural legacy that has led to the crisis?
  • Is there a new responsibility to document, as a mode of bearing witness, the historical event of society’s confrontation with the systemic threat of climate change, peak oil, and other environmental problems?
  • Given the ideological foundations of libraries and archives in Enlightenment thought, and given that Enlightenment civilization may be leading to its own environmental endpoint, are these ideological foundations called into question? And with what consequences?

Formats:

Lightning talk (5 minutes)
Paper (20 minutes)
Proposals are due August 1, 2016.
Notifications of acceptance will be sent by September 16, 2016.
Submit your proposal here: http://goo.gl/forms/rz7uN1mBNM

Planning committee:

  • Casey Davis is Project Manager at the American Archive of Public Broadcasting at WGBH and co-founder of ProjectARCC: Archivists Responding to Climate Change<https://projectarcc.org/>.
  • Madeleine Charney is Sustainability Studies Librarian at UMass Amherst and co-founder of the Sustainability Round Table of the American Library Association<http://www.ala.org/sustainrt/home>.
  • Rory Litwin is a former librarian and the founder of Litwin Books, LLC<http://litwinbooks.com/> (Colloquium sponsor)

nea_spring2016On April 2, ProjectARCC was awarded the New England ArchivistsArchival
Advocacy Award for 2016. Each year, NEA grants the Archival Advocacy Award
(AAA) to an individual or institution demonstrating extraordinary support
of New England archival programs and records – politically, financially, or
through public advocacy. The award was presented at the NEA Spring 2016
Meeting awards ceremony in Portland, Maine. Past recipients include Digital
Commonwealth and Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC).

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NEA’s former president Jill Snyder presented the award and highlighted ProjectARCC’s work to motivate the archival profession to affect climate change. She mentioned ProjectARCC’s collaborations with the Society of American Archivists’ Committee on Advocacy and Public Policy (CAPP), the American Library Association’s Sustainability Roundtable, and DearTomorrow.

Casey Davis accepted the award on behalf of ProjectARCC and thanked the New England Archivists for awarding ProjectARCC with the Archival Advocacy Award. She noted that just a year ago at NEA’s Spring 2015 meeting in Boston, Casey gave a presentation at REPS’ “Revolt Against Complacency” session, identifying areas in which archivists could make an impact on climate change. Several NEA members immediately responded to the call to action, and on Earth Day 2015 ProjectARCC was formed. Today, ProjectARCC’s membership has grown to more than 60 members across the United States.

Congrats to the entire ProjectARCC community!

Over the past year, ProjectARCC has presented at numerous conferences,
including the Society of American Archivists, the Association of Moving Image
Archivists, and Massachusetts COSTEP. This month, Rose Oliveira and Genna
Duplisea will be presenting at the Keeping History Above Water conference
in Newport, Rhode Island. ProjectARCC has hosted several events this year,
including one at ALA Midwinter in collaboration with ALA’s SutainRT and “On
the Brink,” in collaboration with Simmons College SCoSAA.

Members have contributed numerous blog posts on the ProjectARCC blog, as
well as for the SAA Issues and Advocacy blog  and New England Media and Memory Coalition. ProjectARCC members have been interviewed by Infotecarios, a publication for Latin American information professionals, and Lost in the Stacks, a public radio program. ProjectARCC has also hosted Tweet-ups in collaboration with ALA’s Sustainability Roundtable. ProjectARCC member Eira Tansey recently published a peer-reviewed article on climate change risks and impacts.

During COP21, ProjectARCC members marched with thousands of other activists
at the Boston March for Jobs, Justice and Climate.

ProjectARCC members are making impacts within their own institutions, including
curating exhibits featuring historical materials documenting climate change,
and creating and distributing surveys on sustainability and building
efficiencies.

ProjectARCC committees are continuing to work on specific projects,
including collecting stories from archivists on disaster experiences
(Protect), creating a brochure describing actions that archives can take to
become more sustainable (Reduce), compiling a list of archives that
preserve collections related to climate change (Elevate), and assisting
DearTomorrow in preserving their collection of letters, photos, and videos
to the future (Preserve).

 

And finally, ProjectARCC is collaborating with Library Juice Press on a
colloquium in May 2017 titled “Libraries and Archives in the Anthropocene,” which will take place at New York University. More information to come about this event!

Our thanks to the New England Archivists for awarding ProjectARCC the 2016 Archival Advocacy Award and for their support of our work. Congratulations to everyone involved in ProjectARCC!