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Disaster Preparedness and Response for Cultural Properties among Caribbean States by Larry Armony, St. WESTPAS workshop on preparing disaster response plans, held at the PIALA 2007 meeting in Tinian, Northern Marianas.
Jane Barnwell (right) with a staff member outside a damaged school library, American Samoa.
Jane Barnwell meets with public school library administrators to discuss their request to FEMA to rebuild libraries and replace materials lost in the tsunami in American Samoa. The tsunami swept through the exhibition area at the Haydon Museum, located near Pago Pago Harbor. Through the Preservation and Access Education and Training program, NEH supports a range of activities to help cultural heritage workers update their knowledge and learn important new practices and techniques for responsible collections care. An important goal of NEH’s Education and Training program also is to increase awareness about disaster preparedness and help cultural heritage institutions and staff to develop disaster response plans. One project that has received NEH support through the Education and Training program is the Western States and Territories Preservation Assistance Services (WESTPAS), based at the Peninsula Library System in San Mateo, California. LD: The WESTPAS model of developing sustainability for preservation of cultural materials is particularly relevant in the Pacific.
NEH: Can you tell us about some of the work WESTPAS has done to support preservation of humanities collections in the Pacific? LD: The 2009 tsunami hit Pago Pago harbor and villages on the American Samoa island of Tutuila.
Belfor [an organization supporting disaster recovery and property restoration] gave a grant to WESTPAS to pay for travel expenses for Jane Barnwell (PREL) and me to fly to Pago Pago two weeks after the tsunami hit the island.
LD: When a tsunami hit Hawaii in March 2011, I was in Berkeley, California, attending a WESTPAS trainers meeting. LD: The post-disaster lesson learned in Pacific Island communities is that resources are limited.
NEH has supported WESTPAS with multiple awards through the Preservation and Access Education and Training program, most recently in PE-50122-15.
The award-winning Field Guide to Emergency Response and Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel are resources that can help you deal with damage to your collection. If your organization suffered damage as a result of a recent disaster, visit the Heritage Emergency National Task Force’s Information on Major Disasters Web page for state cultural and emergency contacts, response and recovery resources, and a damage reporting tool.

Each year cultural organizations set aside May 1 to participate in MayDay, an initiative to protect cultural heritage from disaster. Heritage Preservation's initiative, Getting Ready in Indian Country, is designed to advance emergency preparedness for tribal cultural heritage.
Several cooperative disaster networks have formed in the regions where Alliance for Response forums have been held. Beauvoir, the Jefferson Davis Home and Library in Biloxi, MS events at restored buildings during a City of Biloxi Preservation in May Program in 2011.
Lori Foley, Vice President for Emergency Programs of Heritage Preservation presents the Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel to congressional staffers at the Cannon House Office Building.
With an International Roster of delegates, the Gala Awards Night is the year’s best networking fun for the Disaster Management Community! Copyright © 2010 2nd World Congress on Disaster Management-2014 - All Rights Reserved. Conservation Center for Art & Historic Artifacts’ (CCAHA) Mid-Atlantic Resource Guide for Disaster Preparedness and Technical Bulletins on the Salvage of Art on Paper, on Photographs, and in Books. Heritage Preservation Organization’s Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel App, A Guide to Salvaging Artifacts in the First 48 Hours after a Disaster. Historical records stored in a vault in the back of the building were damaged when the tsunami surged through this area. For example, NEH-supported regional field services provide in-depth preservation workshops around the country. Through a coordinated network of preservation professionals, WESTPAS provides preservation workshops and consultation services in the Mountain West, West Coast, and Pacific. Several school libraries were severely damaged and Territorial Government records (Land and Court records) were damaged. Because lodging and vehicles were limited, we stayed with the family of the Territorial Librarian, Cheryl Morales, and used the Library’s vehicle. Yet, on-going WESTPAS training works, and networking has help stretch grant funds and support assistance for disaster response and recovery. It includes a Report, an online Inventory of Disaster Resources, and Preparedness Discussion Questions for tribal gatherings, workshops, or staff meetings. Now in its second decade, the Alliance for Response initiative has reached several thousand individuals from more than 800 museums, libraries, archives, and other collecting institutions in 23 regions across the country.

Education and Training awards also support Master’s-level graduate programs in preservation and collections care and workshops and symposia that address national or regional preservation and access needs of broad concern. This report also coincides with the end of Preservation Week and the beginning of Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month. In a region prone to environmental disasters, WESTPAS disaster response and preparedness services have been particularly significant. The only preservation facility for library and archival materials in this vast area is located at the University of Hawai’i at Manoa Library in Honolulu. That dreaded event did happen later, in 2009, when an earthquake did cause a tsunami that hit American Samoa on October 13. It took five days before I was able to reach Terry Field, Clerk at the Territorial High Court, who reassured me that all the valuable Territorial records had been frozen to stabilize them and prevent mold growth. Haydon Museum in American Samoa following the 2009 tsunami in order to hire a textile conservator and purchase preservation supplies to stabilize the collection, both steps recommended by WESTPAS (PW-50739-10). Alliance for Response is generously supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities. For this workshop, my colleague Jane Barnwell of PREL (Pacific Resources for Education and Learning) and I put our heads together to reach as many of the most motivated Library staff in the American Pacific region that we could. The Territorial government has had support from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to restore these culturally significant documents. Learn more about this prize drawing, MayDay project ideas, a special MayDay sale, and more here. The PREL program (with a grant from the Institute for Museum and Library Services) awarded travel scholarships to leaders in the library field in the American Pacific region to attend a three-day pre-conference WESTPAS disaster preparedness workshop. Lynn Davis met with officials from the High Court to draft protocol for treatment of these records.

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