MRCG brings disaster preparedness to the Annual Symposium

This post about the recent MRCG 2018 Annual Symposium is by 2018 MRCG Emerging Professionals Scholarship winner Margalit Schindler. Margalit is a conservation assistant at the Cleveland Museum of Art.


MRCG President Claire Winfield introduces guest speaker Jessica Unger. Photo credit: Hugh Shockey.

The MRCG 2018 Symposium in St. Louis was one for the books. In addition to the session topics spanning a myriad of treatments and technical research, we were excited to welcome Jessica Unger, Emergency Programs Coordinator from the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation (FAIC), for a special session on Emergency Preparedness. Her talk focused on the importance of building relationships with local emergency professionals and answering key logistical questions before an incident strikes. Identifying priority objects to salvage, sharing institutional information (like blueprints, entrances, and potentially hazardous materials) with emergency responders, and understanding the working logistics of your local Incident Command System were just a few of the topics covered.

In addition to her presentation, Jessica also led attendees in a short disaster exercise, where groups were asked to devise a plan after receiving a theoretical phone call that their institution had flooded. Some details of the incident were given, and groups had to decide what information they needed to share and what questions they needed to ask of the emergency responders. Details aside, the most important takeaway from this exercise was the importance of having a predetermined emergency plan. Knowing the priorities of both your institution and the responders beforehand makes communication during and after an incident that much more effective.

Jessica also discussed FAIC’s Alliance for Response initiative, which aims to bring together cultural heritage institutions and emergency responders at the local level. One-day forums are used to launch local initiatives and foster cooperation between institutions and responders in order to better protect material cultural heritage. Many cooperative disaster networks have been formed as a result of these forums and continue to help their members plan for and respond to emergency incidents.

However, the networks are mostly concentrated in large cities on both coasts, leaving the Midwest region somewhat unaccounted for. Starting these alliances is simple, especially with the full tool kit provided by FAIC (link below). As MRCG is already a network of engaged and passionate cultural heritage professionals, we have the foundation to be more proactive and assist institutions and collectors in the Midwest. Consider reaching out to other MRCG members to start the conversation and let Jessica’s talk at the Symposium be the catalyst for starting a network in your area!

For more information on Alliance for Response:

Additional resources:

Alliance for Response tool kit:

Alliance for Response webinar series:

Incident Command Systems:

FEMA Emergency Management Institute courses:

Connecting to Collections Care:


This entry was posted in MRCG Annual Meeting, MRCG News, MRCG Past Meeting, MRCG Workshop/Symposium. Bookmark the permalink.

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