ProjectARCC Attends #SAA15!

The Annual Meeting of the Society of American Archivists rolls into Cleveland, Ohio this week. Thousands of archivists will come together for tours of all kinds, a huge expo of archival products and services, meetings with colleagues, networking events, workshops, and educational sessions. ProjectARCC will also be there in full force! To keep your time green and obtain new insight into why archivists should be concerned about climate change, we’ve created this little guide for you.

Want to add something? Contact Dana Gerber-Margie, outreach coordinator, to add more events and tips.

Tips for Reducing Your Carbon Footprint at the Conference

  • Offset your carbon footprint from your flight by purchasing carbon credits
  • If your home will be empty, turn your water heater to low/vacation settings, turn off your thermostat, turn off or maybe unplug lights and electronics, lower your refrigerator coldness
  • Walk, bike trails, use your hotel’s van, or take public transportation across town
  • If you drive: rent a car that has a high MPG, accelerate slowly, maintain a steady speed, and go into stops smoothly (and think about carpooling!)
  • Turn off your lights and unplug electronics when leaving your hotel room
  • Ask for extra blankets if you get cold at night, instead of using the heater
  • Minimize air conditioner use, especially when not in the hotel room. If you want to keep the room cool while you’re gone, close your drapes to keep the room dark.
  • Turn off the water while brushing your teeth
  • Flush your toilet less (it may sound gross but it helps reduce gallons of water! “If it’s yellow, let it mellow.”)
  • Bring a thermos or tumbler for your coffee or tea instead of using paper/plastic cups
  • Avoid styrofoam
  • Bring your own reusable water bottle instead of buying plastic ones
  • Use the conference app instead of a print program
  • Use the recycling bins. If you don’t see any at the conference hotel, save your recyclables until you find one
  • Don’t ask for a change of sheets during your hotel stay
  • Don’t ask for new towels if they’ve only been used once
  • Unplug your cell phone charger when not in use
  • Eat less meat
  • Eat locally and seasonally
  • Talk to SAA and anyone who will listen about making next year’s event more sustainable!

ProjectARCC Events

Wednesday, August 19th at 3:00pm
Eira Tansey will be doing a brief presentation on ProjectARCC at the Human Rights Archives Roundtable

Thursday, August 20th at 5:15pm
ProjectARCC Happy Hour at Lola Bistro (2058 East 4th Street)

Friday, August 21st at 4:30pm
Casey Davis doing a brief presentation on ProjectARCC at the Issues and Advocacy Roundtable

Friday, August 21st and Saturday, August 22nd
Vote for a ProjectARCC Pop-Up proposal!

Thursday, August 20th and Friday, August 21st
The Preservation Section is hosting a Silent Auction to benefit National Disaster Recovery Fund for Archives.

Relevant Sessions

Thursday, August 20 • 12:15pm – 1:30pm
Forum: Archival and Special Collections Facilities: Guidelines for Archivists, Librarians, Architects, and Engineers
The Standards Committee’s Technical Subcommittee on Archival Facilities Guidelines hosts an open meeting for colleagues to learn more about the facility guidelines and offer comments and suggestions. While the revisions are still in development, an early draft of the proposed revised guidelines will be available for review here. Contact Michele Pacifico or Tom Wilsted with questions.

Thursday, August 20 • 12:15pm – 1:30pm
Join us for a presentation and discussion of the Guidelines for Reappraisal and Deaccessioning. Members of the Standards Committee’s Technical Subcommittee on Guidelines for Reappraisal and Deaccessioning present an overview of this important SAA standard, which undergoes review starting this year. Q&A and comment period to follow.

Thursday, August 20 • 1:45pm – 2:45pm
As we digitize audiovisual collections for preservation, the questions arise: How long do I keep the original? Do obsolescence and decay override the urge/need to retain it? What do we make of the toll on resources, storage, facilities, etc., that results from storage of duplicate content or unrecoverable materials? The panelists address varying opinions based on institution size, digital infrastructure, and collection types to spark critical discussion of this growing challenge.

Friday, August 21 • 10:00am – 11:15am
Archivists, librarians, and community historians know that local residents often distrust repositories. This creates hidden collections—and hidden histories—in the community, especially from groups that are more socially remote from institutions with archives.  As professionals, we have a responsibility to challenge the notion of the “repository as archives” and serve the community better by decentralizing appraisal and custody, coordinating resource deployment, and collaborating in providing description and access.

Friday, August 21 • 10:00am – 11:15am
Is there a place for archives in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) education?  A panel of archivists and special collections librarians tackle this question and offer four examples of creative and instructive approaches in archival outreach to STEM students and educators.  The panelists share their experiences in K-12, university, and museum settings, and encourage a conversation among archivists, special collections librarians, and educators who are actively working to better serve STEM communities.

Saturday, August 22 • 8:30am – 9:45am
Research data management has become one of the principal concerns of research libraries. To date, however, few archivists have been actively involved in this sphere. Attendees of this session, which features three institutions with archivists at the forefront, learn about the imperative to manage and preserve research data and the central role that archivists should play as repositories are designed and implemented.

Saturday, August 22 • 8:30am – 9:45am
Advocacy is a driving force in the minds of archivists—an engine to move the archival enterprise forward—but advocacy is defined and used in different ways and must be performed differently in the varied environments in which archives exist. The speakers explore what advocacy means in the government, educational, and business worlds and demonstrate how the meaning and means of advocacy change depending on the circumstances that different archives and archives associations face.

Saturday, August 22 • 10:00am – 11:00am
Primary resources often reveal information related to collections in museums, but lack of expertise and archival staff often relegate the archives to a second tier. This session, organized by the newly formed Natural Science Archives Association, includes archivists and a museum collection manager who discuss how archives are as essential for the study of natural science as the specimen collections themselves. This broad discussion emphasizes surveying, cataloging, digitizing, and transcribing field books and illustrating how, using data standards for records (EAD) and for their associated entities (e.g., the names of the persons and expeditions, EAC-CPF), it is possible to link publications, specimens, and archives within and across libraries, archives, and museums as a model for archives across all subject areas.

Thanks to member Frances Harrell for mining the huge SAA15 schedule for relevant sessions.

Nothing to Fear but Inaction and Division

Last month, John H. Richardson published an article in Esquire titled “When the End of Human Civilization is your Day Job.” Through an interview with climate scientist Jason Box, who studies glacier ice melt in Greenland, Richardson’s article focuses on how climate scientists have begun to deal with forms of depression after years of disturbing research findings and warnings about impending global catastrophe, which in many cases have gone unheeded by policy makers and the American public. I have only been involved in climate activism for about a year; this year it has been very difficult to not become afraid or overcome with a feeling of dread when reading the literature. I can’t imagine carrying this burden around for the last few decades.

A few weeks ago, the Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics open-access journal published a study titled “Ice melt, sea level rise and superstorms: evidence from paleoclimate data, climate modeling, and modern observations that 2 degrees global warming is highly dangerous.” If you don’t want to read the whole article, the Washington Post does a nice job summarizing it.

The research was led by Dr. James Hansen and 16 other scientists. Hansen is former Director of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies and now professor at the Columbia University Earth Institute. Hansen was also the first to testify before Congress in 1988 about global warming, which brought the issue to the public eye.

This research reports that the two degree Celsius limit of global warming that scientists and policy makers have for years claimed as the “safe upper limit” is actually highly dangerous. Hansen reports that we will likely see several meters of sea level rise by the end of this century. A century isn’t a long time for archivists. For the earth, it means we could possibly see one meter of sea level rise in the next 20-30 years. Even an inch of sea level rise can have a huge impact on floodplains. How far are your collections above sea level?

The sea level rise is caused by melting glaciers and sea ice in the Arctic, Greenland, and Antarctic. With more fresh water pouring into the oceans, Hansen also claims that this will power superstorms unlike anything that we have ever seen.

I’ll remind everyone why this is happening: Continued carbon emissions into our atmosphere are causing a greenhouse effect — heat and energy from the sun cannot escape the atmosphere. Prior to industrialization, Earth had about 280 parts per million of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere; this lasted for around 800,000 years. Last year we reached 400 ppm. According to Dr. Hansen, the safe upper limit of C02 in the atmosphere is 350ppm. Beyond 350ppm carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, we run the risk of causing positive feedback loops and runaway climate change, which cannot be reversed or stopped. The continued burning of fossil fuels causes carbon dioxide emissions.

After I read the Esquire article, I thought to myself, “How are archivists dealing with knowing about climate change when the history of civilization is our day job?”

Archivists are responsible for preserving history for future generations. I believe that it should be a professional and moral obligation for the archival community to come together and take action to ensure the preservation of a safe and habitable planet for future generations. I hate to put it bluntly, but sometimes I wonder: what’s the point in doing what we do if the future of humanity is in question?

I’ve been working on a digital exhibition that features conversations about climate change documented by public broadcasting from 1970 to the present. In 1970, only three days before the first celebration of Earth Day, renowned environmentalist David Brower visited Antioch College in Yellow Springs, Ohio. He gave a talk, which was broadcast over the campus radio station WYSO-FM and posed the question “What will it cost the Earth?” He urged the students and listeners to educate and inform themselves on the environmental problems facing the world. “You can make a difference,” he told them.

ProjectARCC, a task force of archivists working to affect climate change, is working to make a difference. We want to ensure that archivists are aware of the risks of climate change on their collections. We want to find ways to collectively reduce our professional carbon footprint. We want to elevate relevant collections to improve public awareness and understanding of climate change. And we want to make sure that this moment in history is preserved for future research. But what is needed is collective action and contribution among our entire profession.

In 2014, Yale University and George Mason University published a report that categorized Americans on how they perceive the threat of global warming. The segments included Alarmed (13%), Concerned (31%), Cautious (23%), Disengaged (7%), Doubtful (13%), and Dismissive (13%). Only 13% of Americans are alarmed about climate change. These people are the most concerned of all of the groups and are the most motivated to take action. Where do you fall on the spectrum?

I’ve become really interested in how people are dealing with knowing about climate change. I’ve been reading a book called “Don’t Even Think About It: Why Our Brains are Wired to Ignore Climate Change,” by George Marshall, which looks into the psychology of how people understand and deal with (or not deal with) climate change. According to Marshall, the evolution of our brains makes it difficult for us to comprehend or act on risks that are not immediate. I understand. There was a time when I didn’t care about climate change. I attribute that complacency to my former belief that change wouldn’t happen until after I was gone. It is hard to grasp the risk of something not happening right now — something too subtle and unclear whether and when it would affect me. But then I started reading the literature and I tuned in to the changes that are already happening. And then? I thought about how as an archivist, the purpose of approximately third of my life for hopefully the next half century is to preserve history for the future. I entered into sort of an existential crisis. Twenty, fifty, one hundred years from now, our world will be completely transformed. Will our collections survive? Will our efforts to preserve collections for future generations be in vain? And then I think about the children that I want to eventually have. By the time they are forty years old, Boston’s sea level may have risen more than a meter. Where I currently call home, we’re about 4 meters above sea level. Will my kids be able to call this place home? Will it be too hot for them to live in Mississippi, where I grew up?

I think that in order to overcome the evolutionary problem of not reacting to the long-term risks of climate change, we need to find ways to keep climate change on our minds, even when it is scary to think about. This may seem silly, but I have decided that I need to read at least one relevant article every day so that I do not lose my drive to act on climate. If I don’t, I can easily get caught up in other things. Yes, a lot of what we read can be quite scary, but I really like how Naomi Klein puts it in her book “This Changes Everything: Capitalism versus the Climate“:  “fear makes us run, it makes us leap… but we need somewhere to run to. Without that, fear is only paralyzing.” I co-founded and continue to participate in ProjectARCC because it gives me a place to run to. ProjectARCC gives our entire profession a place to leap into action.

I recently read Columbia University’s Connecting on Climate guidebook, which gives 10 recommendations on how to communicate climate change to audiences. It says people are motivated the most to act on climate within existing networks and social groups, and that people are more likely to become engaged on an issue when a group that they are part of cares about it. The guidelines recommend local groups (like churches or neighborhood associations), but I think that mobilizing with one’s profession is equally as constructive. Maybe I’m biased, and I think this would be a great research topic, but I think that this is especially true for the archival profession, because I believe archivists are some of the most passionate professionals of all professions.

I look forward to talking with many of you at this year’s Society of American Archivists conference. Together, I know that we can collectively make a difference. It is the preservation of the history of human civilization that is our day job, and uniting together to take action will stave off the fear and paralysis.

– Casey E. Davis

This article is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-ND 4.0) license.

Scope & Content: Recognizing the Many Climate Change Narratives

Climate change intersects with the archives profession in multiple ways, and these intersections challenge ProjectARCC to define our scope.

This project is not just about fighting climate change, but recognizing that the world is already changing. Regardless of how an individual or an institution feels about the existence of climate change or whether it is anthropogenic, the phenomena of hurricane and blizzard superstorms underscore the need for better disaster planning in our repositories. Furthermore, climate change research, debate, and activism are relevant to our time, and we have a responsibility to preserve this period in history. ProjectARCC seeks to collaborate with repositories and creators of climate change materials to assist in preservation of the intellectual and community labor produced around this topic.

Climate change activism is often connected to other environmental causes, and as these affect social and political landscapes worldwide, they are important to document. After Pope Francis’s recent encyclical, Laudato Si’, took a firm stance on environmental stewardship, and advocate Neeshad Vs published “How Islamic Faith Supports Pope Francis’ Climate Change Encyclical,” it is clear that climate change activism is now part of religious landscapes as well. Archivists need to acknowledge movements like these — not only their existence but the specific arguments and goals they espouse. This includes opposite or differing perspectives on climate change or environmental matters, but as we have found, there are more than two sides to recognize.

We realized that thinking of anthropogenic climate change as debate is too simple a way of looking at this concept. It speaks to a particular perspective in which climate change is just an argument between news pundits rather than something people experience. Our work will facilitate archives to better understand and collect climate change-related materials.

Climate change and environmental justice activism, scientific research, changes in biodiversity, and experiences of communities already witnessing the impacts of extreme weather all tell part of the climate change story. For people in South Pacific island nations, for example, there are not two sides to the climate change issue; there isn’t even one issue. Even within activist groups or the renewable energy industry, there are debates about how best to address climate change from scientific, policy, and human perspectives. We seek to use our professional skills to raise awareness of as many facets of this web of thought and action as possible so that repositories can preserve them.
To some, this may seem like too political a mission for a profession tasked with keeping humanity’s history. However, part of being an archivist is recognizing the significance of historical events and making sure they are preserved. That act is one of archival power, much like the recognition of civil rights, the discovery of holes in the ozone layer, political upheaval, or any period of great change as important to preserve. The work of archivists is inherently political in that our actions all take place within and have impact on the communities of which we are citizens, and ProjectARCC operates on the belief that climate change is significant to those communities.

ProjectARCC is the culmination of strong beliefs channeled through professional endeavors. Our project missions call on us to use outreach, appraisal, description, and myriad other aspects of our professional training to encourage the documentation and permanent preservation of this issue at the intersection of science, politics, and culture. The first step in our work is acknowledging the complex scope of materials and experiences related to climate change to be preserved for a rapidly-changing future.

– Genna Duplisea

Doomsday Preppers

At heart, archiving is an apocalyptic profession.

Archivists are professional harbingers of doom. The job of an archivist, boiled down to its essence, is to preserve things that we believe the future will care about – a statement which implies an inherent from, but doesn’t specify it. So what are we preserving things from?  Everything and anything: obsolescence, decay, human error, catastrophe, random acts of God, anything else we can think of, and maybe some things we can’t. Our job is to assume the worst.

Most people figure their books, tapes, files and records are going to be there again when they want them (if they want them) without thinking too hard about it – and in a lot of cases, for the short term, that may well be true. Not every hard drive is going to fail in two years. But, as archivists, the question for us is not if the drive is going to fail. We know the drive’s going to fail eventually. Everything fails eventually; that’s entropy, and it’s a fact of the universe. The big question for an archivist is: when the drive fails, how do we make sure that doesn’t destroy the things we care about?

A lot of the discussion around climate change should feel familiar to archivists. Global warming, natural disasters, earthquakes, floods, volcanic eruptions (decay, human error, catastrophe): there’s definitely a sense of apocalypse to it. And just like digital preservation catastrophes don’t hit every institution, there are places in the world that won’t directly feel the effects of climate change – at least not right away, not for a while. Not every hard drive fails in two years. A lot of ten-year-old drives are still whirring happily away while I write this.

All the same, we know that there’s a risk the drive is going to fail. And for archivists, where there’s a risk, there’s a certainty: eventually, the drive will fail. We plan around it. We back it up, and back it up again.  We expend enormous amounts of time and resources on prevention and protection, because we know that while the short term might not validate us in that expenditure, the long term definitely will.

As archivists, we need to take the same attitude towards climate change. There’s a risk, and that means that there’s a certainty. Climate change is happening. Stuff is going to fail.

So how do we try and make sure this doesn’t destroy the things we care about?

It’s a pretty good question for an archivist.  It’s an even better one for a climate change activist.

— Rebecca Fraimow

Getting Started with ProjectARCC: A Student Perspective

Originally posted at Hack Library School’s Hack Your Summer series, in response to the question, Are you doing any internships or volunteer work in libraries this summer? Updates by the author, Amy Wickner. Available under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

In addition to summer classes and my regular library job, I just started working with a new group called ProjectARCC, composed of archivists concerned about climate change. Goals for the project include understanding and countering the impact of climate change on archival collections; examining the energy impact and ecological footprint of our work, from facilities to storage to travel; raising awareness about archival collections relevant to climate change; and documenting national, international, and local responses to and impacts of climate change. Read more about the what, why, and how here.

An initial reaction after just several weeks with ProjectARCC: It’s fascinating to consider the range of material that could enrich public understanding of climate change through archival collections. There’s the Old Weather transcription project, working directly with naval weather observations. We may also look to collections like Colorado State University’s Water Resources Archive and the papers and lab notebooks of climate scientists to understand the history of research on climate
change and the organizational and political, uh, climate in which that research emerged. The Elevate committee’s charge is to consider how best to promote and connect this kind of material.

As a former architect and landscape architect, I can’t help seeing design archives as a key part of this initiative as well. How does awareness and understanding of climate change affect how we envision the future built environment? (And, how will future disaster movies envision the devastation of that built environment?) Several members of ProjectARCC are also working directly with climate change awareness groups to provide data management help. Archival material documenting climate change may come from all kinds of sources; which makes sense if we consider how the climate change itself affects all corners of the world.

The project is rolling along, but there are many opportunities to get involved. Start by catching up on the July 8 tweet-up via #preserveclimate.

On a personal note, participating in this kind of work can be tough. It’s entirely on a volunteer basis, and everyone involved is either working or in school full-time. With so many people collaborating for the first time, it takes a lot of cat-herding to keep enthusiasm going and keep the project focused. On the other hand, things can move very quickly in the early stage of a project. I was recently away for six days and it’s taken three more to catch up on ProjectARCC emails — and I’m far from the most involved team member. Doing what we can, without wasting time feeling guilty about not doing more, seems like a sustainable approach to volunteer work. It’s amazing that opportunities like this exist to support personally and professionally meaningful causes; but being responsible enough to both contribute significantly and not let everything else fall by the wayside can be a real challenge.

– Amy Wickner

Our First Conversation to #preserveclimate

On July 8 at 1pm EDT, ProjectARCC successfully hosted its first tweet up on climate change. From all around the twitterverse, archivists and like minded members came to talk about climate change on a personal and professional level. Using six questions to guide the conversation, we talked about what motivates us, the questions we have regarding climate change, and how we are taking action in our personal and professional spheres.

See the hour’s discussion in a curated Storify.

ProjectARCC has a four-fold mission to affect climate change.

  • Archivists can educate themselves on disaster preparedness of preservation risks posed by climate change and protecting their collections.
  • Archivists can advocate for reducing our professional carbon footprint.
  • Archivists can elevate our collections to improve public awareness of climate change.
  • Archivists can actively work to ensure long term preservation of the climate change movement.

If you would like to learn more about ProjectARCC or get involved with one of our committees please visit our website or send us an email at

Join ProjectARCC in a live tweet-up July 8 at 1pm ET!

Almost 10 years ago, the Society of American Archivists met in New Orleans just weeks before Hurricane Katrina and the federal levee failure caused massive human and environmental loss to the Gulf Coast. In the aftermath of Katrina, many of the archives around Louisiana and Mississippi suffered enormous losses to their holdings. Since then, many archives and cultural heritage sites have either been directly affected by, or had close calls due to increased severe weather, rising sea levels, and wildfire risks. These environmental risks are almost certainly likely to increase according to 97% of climate scientists.

For some time, scientists have been the primary voices sounding the alarm over the widespread impacts of climate change. In 2014, 242 lead authors and 436 contributing authors published the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 5th Assessment Report, confirming that climate change is happening and is due to human influence, and that we will see irreversible, catastrophic effects within our lifetime if we do not reduce and eliminate carbon emissions by the middle of the 21st century.

As the world moves to the next rounds of climate talks in Paris at the end of 2015, new voices are entering the policy discussion. Two weeks ago, Pope Francis issued a moral call to action on climate change in his nearly 200 page papal encyclical. This reflects the increasing shift of the climate change conversation from a scientific and economic policy discussion, to that of a worldwide movement towards action motivated not just by scientific and economic factors, but by concern for international human rights and social justice.

As archivists, what is our role in the movement to fight climate change? How is climate change affecting our profession, and how can we act as agents for action within our communities? What actions will have an impact?

On July 8, 2015 at 1pm ET, ProjectARCC is hosting a live tweet-up to discuss the above questions with fellow archivists. We invite you to participate by using #preserveclimate and by following @projectARCC. And you don’t have to be an expert on climate change to attend and contribute! We welcome all archivists who are concerned about the impact of climate change on our profession and who are seeking ways to impact its effects and improve public awareness. In advance of the tweet-up, please feel free to send us questions or issues you’d like to discuss to

On Earth Day in 2015, a group of alarmed archivists founded ProjectARCC, a task force with a mission to motivate the archival community to affect climate change. We believe that as those responsible for the preservation of history for future generations, we should be as passionate and concerned about preserving a safe and habitable planet for ours and future generations.

Our Story

The following is a post by Casey E. Davis, founder of ProjectARCC.

Hi everyone, and thank you for visiting ProjectARCC’s new website. We are a task force of archivists concerned about the impact of climate change on our profession, and we believe that climate change should be a core issue of activism among the archival community. That’s why we are mobilizing to address the issue of climate change, and today I’d like to share our story with you.

Last October, my employer (WGBH) held an event called Green Media Innovation IdeaLab, where climate scientists came to speak about how and why public media producers should be focusing efforts on creating and sharing climate-related programming to bring about more awareness and understanding of climate change. I actually didn’t attend the event; climate change didn’t seem like a really big or important issue to me. But I didn’t know much about it, either.

About a week after the event, my boss, who had attended the event, shared with me some of what she learned, specifically some of the more recent research by climate scientists on how quickly our planet and climate are changing, as well as how we will experience climate change in our lifetime. To be honest, climate change had rarely ever crossed my mind. But it got me thinking, and because I’m a worry wart, it got me to worrying. And that’s an understatement.

The worrying actually got the best of me for a couple of months. But eventually I decided I needed to redirect my feelings and seek to learn as much as possible about the issue, with the goal of informing myself about how I can affect climate change on a personal level. I read the research, and a lot of climate scientists’ and activists’ blogs. I read the entire Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, which cited more than 12,000 scholarly articles and was written by 242 lead authors and 436 contributing authors. The report unequivocally determined that 1) the human cause of climate change is clear; 2) emissions are the highest in history and are unprecedented over millenia; 3) the oceans and atmosphere have warmed and sea levels are rising; 4) continued carbon emissions will cause severe, dangerous and irreversible effects; and 5) action to reduce and eliminate carbon emissions needs to happen NOW.

I read about methods of reducing ones personal carbon footprint. I experienced firsthand ways in which the media communicates (and often miscommunicates) the issue, and after absorbing all of this information, I learned that half of United States senators don’t think that climate change is caused by humans. Some don’t even think climate change is happening.

All the while I was reading and learning about climate change, I did so while wearing my archivist hat. I immediately wondered, “Why isn’t this a core issue of activism within the archival profession?” We are responsible for the preservation of history for future generations; we should be as concerned and involved in ensuring the preservation of our habitable planet for future generations.

I identified four areas in which there is need for focus within the archival profession around the issue of climate change, and I shared my thoughts at the Spring 2015 NEA/MARAC joint meeting. Along with these four issues, I asked a lot of questions. That’s because I didn’t and still don’t have answers to these issues, but my goal was to inspire one or more people to join me in trying to work toward finding answers to the questions.

1. Protect our collections from the impact of climate change

Last year was the hottest year ever recorded. Last week, temperatures were 40 degrees in Boston, 95 degrees in Fairbanks, Alaska, and 120 degrees throughout India (more than 2,200 people died of heat strokes, and 17 million/10% of their chickens died). Two weeks ago, the long drought in Texas ended — with so much rain that it could have covered the entire state with 8 inches of water. My father’s first cousin’s house was completely washed away. We’ve been setting unsettling records like never before.

One example of current actions being taken in risk and disaster planning is the Union of Concerned Scientists, who have been working with the National Park Service to look at the risks and vulnerabilities of national landmarks due to the future effects of climate change. In a recent report, the Union of Concerned Scientists identified 30 national historic landmarks, including Boston’s Faneuil Hall and Long Wharf, and published case studies how climate change will affect these locations with the goal of illustrating more broadly how climate change is an urgent problem. When Superstorm Sandy hit the eastern seaboard in 2012, two national landmarks — Liberty and Ellis Island — were devastated. Tens of thousands of archival materials and 19,000 artifacts at Ellis Island Immigration Museum had to be relocated.

How are archivists preparing for more frequent extreme weather events? We need to identify how our collections are vulnerable, and how our locations make them vulnerable. As the earth’s atmospheric temperature continues to warm, wet areas will get wetter, dry areas will get dryer, and sea levels will rise. We need to realize that the infrastructure from 50 or 100 years ago may not stand up to changing conditions.

2. Reduce our professional carbon and ecological footprint

Earlier efforts to identify ways to reduce our professional carbon footprint were taken in 2007 when Sarah Kim, a PhD candidate at UT Austin published a paper on building sustainable archival facilities. For many of us who work in academic or larger institutions, decisions like these are not made by archivists; however, as preservers of history with a concern for the future, archivists can and should be advocating for the use of more sustainable resources to power, cool and sustain our facilities. Additionally, with the increase of digital files, we should be considering ways to reduce the amount of energy we use to store and preserve our files. Audiovisual archivists debate over whether best practice for video preservation files should be uncompressed or lossless. One requires much less storage, spinning disk, and energy than the other.

We are not exempt from the need to participate in global efforts to reduce carbon emissions, but in all reality, if all of the archives across the globe became completely sustainable, this would be a just minuscule fraction of the amount of reductions needed to meet the necessary goals. Reductions in use of energy generated by fossil fuels among the archival community will, however, demonstrate that we care about the future of a stable planet and are taking the steps that we can to curb emissions. What would be even more impactful is for archivists to support leaders who understand that climate change is the most urgent issue of our time and are willing to do something about it.

3. Elevate our relevant collections to increase public awareness and understanding of climate change

What collections are relevant to the issue of climate change? How can we make potential users — scholars, journalists, digital humanists, activists, scientists, students, educators, deniers and the general public — aware of these collections that can be used to make historical connections with the current issue of climate change? For example, I plan to curate an exhibition of relevant materials in our collection by the end of this year.

Another great example is, a collaboration between NARA, NOAA, participating libraries, and users to collect and provide access to historical data about the oceans. The goal is to aid in understanding the weather of the past to help scientists understand what the weather will do in the future.

At Northern Arizona University, the Cline Library has collaborated with the Biology department at NAU to provide the Cline Library Hanks Scholar fellowship to students to use the library’s special collections, specifically photograph collections, to understand the landscape and geography of Arizona and compare it to today’s landscape by taking photographs of the same locations. The Hanks Scholar project is a component of the Southwest Experimental Garden Array (SEGA) project to match historic and contemporary photographs to show the effects of climate change on the region.

There are other libraries and archives that are actively making their collections relevant to climate change accessible for research on the topic, such as the National Park Service, but information about what archives have relevant material is difficult to find using the internet searching techniques of a typical user. An online portal, list of finding aids, or at least an online bibliography that points users to relevant historical collections related to climate change would be extremely valuable to all types of users and is a project on our agenda.

4. Preserve this epochal moment in history for future research and understanding

How are we as archivists documenting and preserving this moment in history? Are we adequately and efficiently working with climate scientists and climate activists to acquire and prepare their collections for long-term preservation and access? As many of these collections are born digital, we know that they are even more vulnerable to being lost before they can be preserved. It’s crucial that we begin to identify what collections exist and start working with these groups to ensure that this time in history is preserved for future generations.

I spoke with Professor Anthony Leiserowitz at Yale University’s Project on Climate Change Communication, and here is his opinion on the most important role of archivists around climate change:

“This is the single most powerful thing your profession can do…How do you document and preserve for future generations this critical moment in the history of our local communities, our states, our nation, and the whole world?”

ProjectARCC is already working to address this piece of our mission through collaboration with, a campaign that is seeking to gather messages from parents and grandparents to their loved ones describing what they know about climate change and what they are doing about it. We are working with to find a permanent home for the collection of letters, develop a plan for distributing them to the intended recipients in 2050, and ensure the long term preservation and access of the letters for future researchers to understand how people perceived and acted on climate change in the early 21st century. Read my letter, and I encourage you to write and submit a letter as well.

After giving my talk at NEA/MARAC, I asked the audience to consider joining me in addressing the four issues outlined above, and as you can tell, we’re on it! I didn’t know what to call the group/project at that point — whether it be a task force or just a group of archivists who were as worried as I was, but I’m so excited to begin directing our concern into action — in the form of activism, outreach, and education within and beyond the archival community. Our inaugural meeting was held on Earth Day 2015, where we (actually, Kristen Weischedel!) came up with our name, ProjectARCC. Together we identified ways in which we can achieve our four-fold mission, and we look forward to pursuing this important effort.

Contact us with ideas and/or to get involved!