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

 

ProjectARCC is challenging archivists from around the world to elevate and broadcast their collections that relate to climate change. Use #preserveclimate to join the conversation and add to the database!

This week, an important and big climate change conference started in Paris, and will continue until December 11th. In the wake of the 13 November terrorism, an already high-profile meeting will take on new meaning. It would not be hyperbolic to say what could come out of the Paris meeting could chart the very path of human existence for our foreseeable future.

This is a brief post that includes some useful links and a very quick primer to help ProjectARCC allies understand the significance of the road ahead. If this primer leaves you wanting more, I highly recommend this short graphic novella of the history of international efforts to manage climate change. A text-based timeline can also be found here.

WHO?

The Paris talks, often referred to in shorthand as COP21 (or the 21st meeting of the Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, UNFCC) will be the most recent attempt to bring together the international community to committing to real reductions in carbon emissions that will keep the world as close to not exceeding 2º Celsius of warming as possible. 2º Celsius has been the benchmark target set by the climate change policy community for several years, and exceeding this target will almost certainly cause severe and irreversible changes to the world climate. We have already warmed the planet by 0.8º Celsius since the late 1800s. Because reduction of emissions would have to be so dramatic to bring current projections to 2º or less, many scientists and policy makers are now reckoning with adaptation to a planet that could warm by at least 4º Celsius by 2100, if massive reductions in carbon emissions are not immediately implemented.

WHERE?

Paris, France (specifically, Le Bourget, which is just outside Paris). COP meetings rotate between regions, and France applied for the 2015 Western European hosting turn back in 2012. The actual meeting can only be attended by national delegations of the UNFCC parties, intergovernmental agencies and non-governmental organizations with officially-recognized observer status (e.g., the World Bank), and journalists. However, close to the official meeting location, there will be a venue that will host activities that the general public can attend.

As this blog post goes to press, following the Paris terrorist attacks French authorities are committed to going forward with hosting and security for the official meeting events, but will not allow any public street marches associated with the climate talks. At past climate summits, such as Copenhagen in 2009, public demonstrations served an important role in giving voice to those most vulnerable to climate change’s disasterous effects.

WHEN?

While the meeting will take place over the course of 12 days, there has been significant groundwork laid over the past year. The initial negotiation sessions began in February, in Switzerland. The meeting in Paris will be the final vote to accept the framework to measure progress on each country’s committed reductions.

WHY?

In general, the COP (Conference of Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change) takes place every year (since 1995). In addition, you may see things like “CMP” when reading about COP — this refers to parties which signed on to the Kyoto Protocol, which was the first time binding greenhouse gas emission targets were set. This year is the 21st conference of COP, and the 11th conference of CMP (i.e., COP21/CMP11). The United States is a party to the UNFCC, but never ratified the Kyoto Protocol, citing concerns over lack of emissions reductions from developing countries. This is why the recent carbon emissions agreement between China and the United States is a huge deal — it represents perhaps a loosening of the “Which country should cut first and faster?” question that has often derailed recent international climate negotiations.

HOW?

The biggest difference with this round of climate talks is the model to which countries are pledging individual emissions reduction targets. Each country has set their own target, known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC)– on the plus side, this means countries may be more likely to actually meet reduction goals, something that has been elusive in the past. On the other hand, many experts note that even if all countries meet their own self-defined targets, it will not be enough to collectively stay under the 2º target. The World Resources Institute has developed an interesting visualization tool for the submitted INDCs.

WHAT TO LOOK FOR?

Historically, a stumbling block in climate talks has been tension between reduction expectations of highly developed countries with high emissions (such as the United States) compared to rapidly developing countries (such as China and India). Meanwhile, many Pacific Island nations are literally reckoning with going underwater, possibly in our lifetimes. There will likely be significant discussion over the obligations of developed countries to assist extremely vulnerable and under-resourced countries cope with the effects of climate change.

— Eira Tansey

 

Members of ProjectARCC converged upon Cleveland, Ohio last week with fellow archivists from across the United States and beyond, sharing ideas, new projects, and best practices on the preservation and access of historical materials for current and future generations.

This was ProjectARCC’s first national opportunity to share news about our work, our concerns about the impact of climate change on the archival profession, and ways we think archivists can make a positive climate impact.

Prior to the conference, ProjectARCC published a blog post sharing tips on reducing our carbon footprint while at the conference, in addition to recommending some sessions that were relevant to archivists concerned about climate change.

On Wednesday, Eira Tansey, Chair of the Protect Committee, spoke about ProjectARCC to the SAA Human Rights Roundtable. We received suggestions about possibly establishing partnerships with the Human Rights Archives Roundtable, the International Archival Affairs Roundtable, and the Latin American and Caribbean Cultural Heritage Archives Roundtable (LACCHA). Eira will follow up on these suggestions in the next few weeks and reach out to them.

At the Forum on Archival and Special Collections Facilities led by Michele Pacifico, ProjectARCC members raised questions about how archives can prepare and build facilities understanding that climate change will impact different regions across the country in a variety of ways.

The Regional Archival Associations Consortium’s Disaster Planning Committee, led by Daria Labrinsky, decided to focus this year’s efforts on climate change impacts.

Casey Davis, Chair of the Preserve Committee, attended a session on Thursday to learn about how the SAA Council makes decisions on advocacy and policy issues, including which issues SAA is willing and interested in taking a position on. From this meeting, Casey had the idea to develop an issue brief for SAA to review and hopefully make an official statement on climate change on behalf of the Society’s membership. Later during the conference, this idea was further discussed with members of the Committee on Advocacy and Public Policy. Over the next couple of months, ProjectARCC members will work on an issue brief for review by CAPP and the SAA Council.

A few ProjectARCC members gathered on Thursday at Lola Bistro in Cleveland. At the meeting, member Genna Duplisea shared her idea about the need for a ProjectARCC records retention schedule and implementation of records management best practices. Everyone agreed!

On Friday, ProjectARCC members were honored to be selected by the membership to host a PopUp Session titled “Somewhere to Run to: Acting on Climate Change within the Archival Profession.” Panelists included Genna Duplisea, Eira Tansey, and Casey Davis. Frances Harrell reported from the Reduce Committee. Many suggestions from the audience focused on assessing the climate impact of archival facilities and programs as well as researcher carbon footprints. Attended by equally concerned archivists ranging from early career to seasoned professionals, the most valuable takeaways from the sessions were contributed by the people in the audience, all of whom gave extremely helpful advice and recommendations on how ProjectARCC should move forward with its goals and how those goals could be refined. Tweets from our pop-up panel were tagged with #s509.

Following the session, Casey gave a presentation on climate change and ProjectARCC to the Issues and Advocacy Roundtable. She shared a few ideas about possible opportunities for collaboration, including co-authoring or endorsing the SAA issue brief on climate change; collaborating on a template letter or conversation with legislators, which archivists could then use to urge their elected officials to take action on climate change; and collaborating on a carbon incentive program for SAA 2016 in Atlanta.

Overall, the conference was hugely successful. ProjectARCC members made new contacts and advocates across the country. Archivists are understanding that the issue of climate change affects everything that we do, as professionals, as individuals, as communities and across the world. We’re honored to be part of this movement to better understand climate impacts on our profession, and equally as importantly, what efforts we can take to act on climate change within and beyond it.

A Storify of our time at SAA15, with tweets from the Human Rights Roundtable, our Pop Up Session, and the Issues & Advocacy Roundtable can be found here!

— Casey Davis, Eira Tansey, and Genna Duplisea

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.