Archival Adaptation to Climate Change

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

Preservation Week includes Climate Change

As part of Preservation Week programming, the Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York, Inc. (A.R.T.) and the Archives and Public History Program at New York University are co-sponsoring an event  to discuss how archival repositories can be pro-active in the fight against climate change, collections useful to climate change research, and successful sustainability efforts/resiliency measures.

The event “I’m Not A Scientist”: The Role and Responsibility of Archivists Towards Climate Change takes place on Friday, April 29, 2016 from 6 to 8pm at New York University’s Kimmel Center, Room 912. If you’re in NYC this Friday, register for the event to join the conversation.

For more information, visit the event page.

Hope to see you there!

Your Input Needed: Sustainable Archives Research

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

ProjectARCC Honored with NEA Archival Advocacy Award

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!

 

 

DearTomorrow, A Conversation with the Future About Climate Change

Thanks to NEMMC (New England Memory & Media Coalition) for this original post from our founder Casey Davis.

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Since May 2015, I have been working with a team to develop a new online space where people can post letters, photos and videos to their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, future children and future generations about climate change.

As a professional archivist, I was drawn to this project because the collection will become a long-term archive, a record of how people are currently thinking about and taking action on climate change. These messages will be collected over the next five or so years and then re-released back to the public in the years 2030 and 2050, for the recipients and for future generations to see when they are older.

My contributions to the project include managing the letters and metadata and helping coordinate with potential long-term repositories to preserve the collection for research and understanding by future generations.

It has only been in the past several years that I have become aware of the seriousness of climate change and have spent time reflecting on how, as an archivist, I could participate in developing solutions. I want to make a contribution not only to the documentation of this important period of time, but also participate in activities that help shape this period of time. That is why I have joined the team of DearTomorrow and also founded Project ARCC, a task force of archivists striving to motivate the archival profession to effect climate change.

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DearTomorrow recognizes that one of the greatest challenges for addressing climate change is the disconnect between future climate change consequences and the need to take action now. By asking people to reflect on climate change through the eyes of someone young that they love, the project aims to make climate change a more relevant, accessible and immediate issue.

I personally experienced this shift in thinking when I wrote my own DearTomorrow message. In my first letter, I wrote about my October 2014 life-changing experience of coming to terms with the imminent threats of climate change on the future of our planet and its impacts not only on society but also on the responsibility of archivists to preserve history for future generations. For months after I had this awakening, I was paralyzed in fear. I was unable to talk about it with many of my family members who still deny climate change, and I didn’t know what to do about it to have a personal impact. In my second letter, written several months later, I wrote about how ProjectARCC was making a difference within our profession, and how the fear that I experienced was turned into action.

I’m not a parent yet, but as an archivist and as someone who thinks about the past — and a lot about the future — I understand the importance of preserving this epochal moment in history for people to one day understand what we knew, what we didn’t know, and what we did about climate change. DearTomorrow will be a resource for our loved ones to look back and see the actions we took for them. It will be a resource for scholars and researchers to gain an understanding about this moment in time. And right now, it is a bridge to action among those to take the time to think about the people to whom they are writing and for whom they are taking action on climate change.

I invite you to learn more about what I feel is a very powerful and important project, and think about ways that you can contribute to the project. Here’s how:

  1. Participate in this historic project by writing your own letter to the future. The key here is to think about someone young and important in your life who will access your message in the year 2030 or 2050. What will you say to them about the world we currently live in? Write about how you currently think about the challenge of climate change. Or perhaps reflect on a place or experience that is important to you and that you would like to preserve for them to experience in the years to come. The process is open-ended so what you say is up to you. Submit your message with a photo that is important to you.
  2. Participate in the photo promises project. Think about one new action that you could take in 2016 to reduce your environmental footprint.  This could be something in the home or in the community. Write it down, take a photo and submit it to deartomorrow.org.
  3. Participate in the crowdfunding campaign. Our team has raised over $14,000 in donations and commitments from over 150 people ranging from $10 to $1500. Contributions in all amounts are welcome.

Contribute a skill or expertise to the project. Our all-volunteer team is always looking for creative and motivated people to join in the project. Contact us if you have an idea about how you can contribute.

— Casey E. Davis

Reporting On the Brink

ProjectARCC and the Simmons College Student Chapter of the Society of American Archivists (SCoSAA) co-hosted On The Brink: Archives, Climate Change, and the Future. The event, held on the Simmons College campus, was also live streamed; a recording of the event is forthcoming.

The two-part event featured both presentations by panel members and an open Q&A session afterward. The panel was composed of Casey Davis, project manager at the American Archive of Public Broadcasting and founder of ProjectARCC; Lisa Pearson, who is Head of the Arnold Arboretum Horticultural Library and Archives; Trisha Shrum, PhD candidate at the Harvard Kennedy School and co-founder of DearTomorrow; and Lucas Stanczyk, Assistant Professor of Political Science and Affiliated Faculty of Philosophy at MIT.

Davis presented on her personal revelation regarding the urgency of climate change and the importance of archivists to understand and respond to the challenges presented by this phenomenon. Shrum’s presentation combined an introduction to the DearTomorrow organzation with a discussion of developments in behavioral psychology that may prove useful in motivating the public to make and support environmentally conscious actions. Pearson presented a brief historical introduction to the Arnold Arboretum and provided an insightful look at how the library, archives, and grounds of the Arnold Arboretum have been (and could be!) useful to activists and researchers. Bringing the event to a somber and grounded conclusion, Stanczyk emphasized the nature of climate change as a longitudinal and international issue, and presented figures concerning emission benchmarks that must be attained in order to reduce and mitigate the impact of global climate change on the environment.

For some people, the biggest takeaway from events like these can be the revelatory understanding that climate change is a serious and imminent threat that will affect all people, everywhere (though not equally so; less-developed nations, and areas closer to sea level, are in more immediate danger). For the initiated, events like On The Brink serve to remind us of our purpose and spur us on to continued action. As a culmination of mutual cooperation between SCoSAA, ProjectARCC, and our panel presenters, the event was also a reminder of the importance of collective action to mobilize real change concerning climate change. While individual environmentally conscious actions are effective and important, our voices are strongest when unified. ProjectARCC is just one example of an organization that rallies concerned individuals who share a mutual association around the issue of climate change. Finding a way to become involved in environmental activism– be it at the community, institutional, state, or national level– is the next critical step in transforming concern over climate change into real action.

Each of these speakers brought this revelation about in different ways. Davis’ presentation on Project ARCC highlighted the potential benefits of tapping into mutual association (through a shared professional interest) to rally members of the community around an issue. The involvements and accomplishments of ProjectARCC since its founding are a testament to this. Shrum demonstrated how environmental activists can tap into social networks and insights into human psychology to better unify and inspire people to collective action. At the local level, Pearson shared information about how researchers, community members, and the interested public are making use of the Arboretum’s resources to advance scholarship and activism goals.  

— Chris Kaplan

Dramatically Reducing An Archive’s Carbon Footprint by Working with the City

ProjectARCC members Blake Relle and Danielle Cordovez set out to highlight an organization that took steps to positively impact the climate. Through Twitter, we learned that the City of Toronto Archives won the “Race to Reduce” challenge by lowering energy consumption by a staggering 59%. They were able to achieve this through C40 Climate Leadership Group initiatives instituted by the city. Relle and Cordovez spoke with the City Archivist at the Toronto City Archives, Carol Radford-Grant , and Project Manager, Prashant Bhalja, to learn more about this impressive accomplishment.

The C40 Climate Leadership Group consists of different government bodies and agencies within major cities whose focus is to make a positive impact on the global climate. In an effort to show leadership, Canadian officials announced plans to encourage the development and use of energy efficient solutions to take action against the effects of Greenhouse Gas emissions.  Being the largest city in Canada, Toronto took the lead in implementing C40 initiatives to show that they were actively doing their part, and not just talking about what should happen.

The city of Toronto approached the staff at the Archive to see if they would participate, and lower their energy consumption. The staff was thrilled to be part of this project for three reasons. First, the building that houses the archive was over twenty years old, and in need of upgrades. Secondly, the building’s energy consumption was higher than comparable constructions in the city, and throughout the Province of Ontario.  Finally, the staff had a hard time keeping the temperature, and relative humidity at safe levels due to the city’s extreme weather conditions.  In the winter the temperature, factoring in the wind chill,  temperatures can may fall to -40 degrees Celsius.  In contrast, the relative humidity in the summer ranges from 80% to 90%.

Making improvements to the building was necessary, and would allow safe, long term storage for the collections.  Improvements  included the installation of a new HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning)  system, and energy efficient boilers to to properly regulate temperature, relative humidity, and the air flow in the building. The new boilers require little energy to function. The  HVAC system is automated, and lowers consumption in practical ways such as shutting  off when the loading doors are open.  Radford-Grant reported that very little problems arose during the installment of the HVAC system, and boilers as the archival staff worked well with Bhalja, and discussed concerns in advance to ensure low risk of damage to the collections.

With the new HVAC system and boilers,  the Archive lowered electricity use from 200 -250 to 130 kilowatts monthly,  resulting in a 59% reduction in energy use. The reduction was so severe,  that the meter was checked and replaced by the gas and electric companies to make sure it hadn’t been tampered with.  To maintain the low monthly number, Radford-Grant and Bhalja agree that daily monitoring of consumption, in addition to staff training on how best to utilize the equipment is necessary.

Radford-Grant and Bhalja’s  advice to archivists planning to implement energy reduction practices are:

  1. Every building has room for improvement to minimize energy use. Look for it.
  2. There does not have to be a choice between lowering energy and climate control. Comfort should not be sacrificed for conservation. There is a balance that optimizes both goals.
  3. Collaborate with your area, and research municipal initiatives for Greenhouse Gas Emission reduction.

To continue their efforts, the City of Toronto Archives hopes to install a new air conditioner and improved insulated windows in the coming years.

For us at ProjectARCC, two important lessons came out of the interview with Radford-Grant and Bhalja. First, people tend to believe that they, as one person, cannot do anything to affect climate change. That is not so: each person can do their part to make a positive impact on the climate. One can install solar panels, install new windows, or install lights the automatically turn on and off. Each small thing adds up. A lot of things over the course of history have changed because one person stood up and said, “Enough is enough.” In other words, there are things that everyone can do.

Secondly, we need to work together. We are global citizens and have a duty to leave the planet in better shape than we found it. There is a lot of talk in the archival profession about working together. If we do not start working together now, when will we? We need to ask ourselves — in the style of President Kennedy — “Ask not what your planet can do for you, but what you can do for your planet.”

— Blake Relle and Danielle Cordovez

Elevate a Climate Change Exhibit

Two weeks ago, ProjectARCC challenged archivists to elevate their collections related to climate change using #PreserveClimate. There’s also a survey archivists can fill out for collections to go into a larger project.

One example of an archive that has recently elevated their materials related to climate change is the American Archive of Public Broadcasting. In late October, the American Archive of Public Broadcasting (AAPB) launched its Online Reading Room, providing the public with access to thousands of historic public television and radio programming dating back to the 1950s. As part of the inauguration of the Online Reading Room, AAPB staff launched three curated exhibits featuring content that is topically and historically significant. AAPB Project Manager Casey Davis curated one of the three exhibits, the title of which is “Climate Change Conversations: Causes, Impacts, Solutions.

The exhibit highlights television and radio conversations with climate scientists, activists, journalists, historians, and students who used the venue of public broadcasting to discuss climate change for more than a quarter of a century. In these recordings, they have repeatedly communicated the science of human-driven climate change and its impacts in interviews, call-in radio shows, debates, public lectures, news programs, and documentaries.

While scientists and activists have consistently used public broadcasting to disseminate information about climate change, the conversation has changed over time. In the 1980s, focus was primarily on communicating the potential threats of global warming. Since then, programming has increasingly examined the actual impacts, and in addition, struggled to keep the American public informed and engaged.

Organized into six sections, the exhibit highlights public broadcasting recordings of conversations on climate change—its causes, impacts, and proposed solutions—from 1970, the first year that Earth Day was celebrated, to the present. Among the recordings include conversations with Gus Speth, former Dean of the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, James Hansen, the first scientist to testify before Congress on the threat of global warming, former Vice President Al Gore, three recordings with Bill McKibben, writer and activist who founded the international organization 350.org, Katharine Hayhoe, climate scientist who has become well-known for communicating climate change to fellow evangelical Christians, and David Brower, founder of Friends of the Earth.

What’s in your collections?

ProjectARCC challenges archives to #preserveclimate during COP21

From November 30 to December 11, world leaders and scientists will meet in Paris in the hopes of negotiating an international accord to reduce carbon emissions and respond to the imminent threats of climate change. As we move closer to this United National Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) in the coming week, I believe that we are on the precipice of changing the conversation about climate change. Archivists can play a role in elevating the conversation and increasing climate literacy by using our collections to improve public awareness of climate change through exhibits and social media. We’re making commitments now a future for our planet. As the guardians of cultural heritage, let’s not only work to ensure the preservation of our collections from the impacts of climate change, but let’s take that responsibility further by providing better access and discoverability to our collections that could be used to educate our communities on the urgency for action on climate change.

ProjectARCC would like to challenge archives to use the hashtag #PreserveClimate during COP21, which is taking place from November 30 – December 11, and promote your collections that are relevant to the conversation about climate change.

In addition, we ask that you help us identify archival collections related to climate change by filling out this survey: https://projectarcc.org/elevate/survey-elevate/.

Once we have compiled this survey, we will use the information to create a database and visualizations that identify these collections and where they exist, which can be used as a resource for scholars, researchers, scientists, journalists, and the general public. 

We encourage you to take the challenge and #preserveclimate during COP21. If you’re wondering what types of materials are relevant to the issue of climate change, here are a few suggestions:

  • materials documenting natural disasters
  • dated historic photographs of landscapes and agriculture
  • records of climate change or environmental activist groups
  • scientific data sets for climate change research
  • government records about local, regional, or national response to climate change
  • manuscript collections documenting how people feel or felt about climate change
  • papers of climate scientists
  • recorded lectures, interviews, and debates about climate change

— Casey Davis

Disaster Planning: Do Something

A month or so back, the ProjectARCC blog featured a blog post titled “Doomsday Preppers,” about the fact that preparing for disaster is one of the most important functions of an archivist. Most of the standard functions that we practice as archivists — creating backup copies of digital files, storing physical items in safe and protective containers, making sure that we track when and where our collections are at all times — serve as a form of protection against disaster.

But how do you actually go about planning for the kinds of major disasters that climate change scientists have been warning us to expect? What happens when you really do get the flood or the earthquake that you always knew was a possibility, but never really thought was going to happen at your institution?

Many archives and cultural heritage organizations have disaster plans, which provide solid, practical instructions on how to cope with an emergency — what precautions to take, who to contact, and what the first steps should be to protect the collections when a disaster hits. If your institution doesn’t have a disaster plan yet, the Society of American Archivists has a great Annotated Resources page full of disaster plan templates, examples, tutorials and bibliographies to help make the process of developing one a little easier.

However, even if your institution already has the best disaster plan imaginable, archivists are busy people; with deadlines for grants and projects and fiscal years looming over our heads, preparing for some kind of abstract catastrophe can often take a back burner. If your institution does have a disaster plan, when was the last time you actually looked it up and read it? How often does someone take a look at it to make sure it’s up to date — and how long does it take to push changes through the bureaucracy to approve it? Are new employees aware of it, and what information it contains, and how to find it if the emergency actually does take place?

One of the best resources for improving ongoing disaster preparedness in archives in cultural heritage institutions is COSTEP, the Coordinated Statewide Emergency Preparedness Framework, developed by the Northeast Document Conservation Center (NEDCC). COSTEP encourages cultural institutions to work together on a statewide level with emergency management agencies and first responders. The state of Massachusetts currently has a thriving official COSTEP program, which hosts regular meetings and trainings, and hopefully other states will follow suit.

However, even if you’re not ready to spearhead an official statewide COSTEP initiative, the COSTEP Framework document has a number of fantastic recommendations about how to build relationships and prepare for disaster within a community before disaster occurs.

Speaking of workshops, taking any kind of disaster preparedness workshop — either cultural institution-specific ones, such as those offered by the NEDCC, or more general ones like those offered by the Red Cross — is a good way to become aware of hazards and disaster resources in your area.

Still, no matter how prepared you and your institution are, there’s always going to be some disasters that can’t be prevented by any amount of planning. The archival community has generated resources to help cultural institutions post-disaster, too. The National Disaster Recovery Fund for Archives was originally created to assist archives recovering from Hurricane Katrina; it’s since expanded its mandate to support the recovery of archives from any major disaster, and can provide up to $2,000 in initial emergency funding.

While I’m sure all of us hope that we’ll never need to apply for that funding, I know, for one, I’m glad to know now that it’s there and available — staying aware of these kind of resources, just in case, is one more way of being prepared.

— Rebecca Fraimow

Do you have more ideas for archivists to improve their disaster planning? Consider joining the Protect Committee as part of ProjectARCC. Our next meeting is Wednesday, October 21st. We’ll be discussing developing relationships with similar projects and mapping archival disasters.