WAACNewsletter
Volume 15, Number 3, Sept 1993, pp.37-38

Conference Reviews

Mary Piper Hough, column editor

Earth, Air, Fire and Water Disaster Mitigation Conference

May 10-11, 1993
Campbell Center for Historic Preservation Studies
Mount Carroll, Illinois

With a support grant from the NEH, this conference brought together disaster mitigation and response specialists, and museum and historic site administrators from the Midwest.

Chaired by Barbara Overton Roberts, Objects Conservator and Chair of the ICOM Ad Hoc Committee for Hazard Reduction, the conference opened with Barbara's update on advances in international disaster preparation infrastructure related to cultural materials, national cooperative efforts in disaster response, progress in institutional planning, and the importance of personal responsibility.

Internationally, ICOM now has an official disaster committee. UKIC has a publication in press, and AIC has a publication available. "Technology and Conservation" publishes regularly on disaster topics. The Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, Institute of Behavioral Science #6, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0482 has climate literature which they will send upon request.

Nationally, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) recently incorporated the conservation of damaged cultural properties into its mandate. It has funded documented recovery and conservation needs in the past year, and is prepared to fund emergency preparedness research and planning requests from institutions holding cultural collections. A clear message of the conference was the individual cultural institution responsibility to understand the guidelines and procedures for federal disaster response funding, such as those provided by FEMA, the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), and the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH).

Key to the conference was the importance of disaster preparation at the institutional and personal level; not a static plan, but a state of readiness, a pro-active mind set.

Richard Napoli, Principal, Constar Group Inc, architectural consulting in New York City. Richard outlined a pragmatic approach to structural concerns, including vigilant building maintenance and preventive care, and an understanding of natural elements and the response of materials to them. Water was singled out as the most demonic of the elements.

Dennis Wenger, Director, Hazard and Recovery Center, Texas A & M. As a sociologist, Dennis pointed out the importance of an accurate knowledge of human reaction in a time of emergency; often role abandonment is an unexpected complication. According to Dr. Wenger, a disaster plan shaped around the people implementing it will be more efficacious than shaping the people to the plan. This is an area of divergent opinion i disaster planning.

Rocky Lopez, Disaster Services, American Red Cross. Rocky opened by saying disaster is often responded to with used food and canned clothing and pointed out that dealing with inappropriate donations is often a problem. On a more somber note, he highlighted the importance of showing what *can* be done in a specific emergency. Studies show an increase in avoidance, anxiety, and inaction caused by showing only disaster images.

Bob Sherman, Illinois State Emergency Management Agency. Pragmatic guidelines were stressed, such as knowing state procedures and contacts; having specific plans for artifacts and specific locations for important materials; creating communication lines prior to crisis; using local, state, and federal resources; and understanding the roles of all involved.

Linda Dillman, Associate Director, Center of Earthquake Studies, Cape Girardeau, MO. Dr. Dillman illustrated the importance of knowing the soil and geology of your area in order to understand the following: what to expect from seismic activity in your locality, sound construction techniques for a specific area, and building maintenance suitable for local land characteristics and history.

Andy Hellenthal, Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium, Memphis, TN. Andy discussed practical techniques for securing artifacts and furniture against earthquake damage.

French Wetmore, French and Associates, Park Forest, IL. French provided provocative and practical information on what floods do, how to assess the risk, protection from flood conditions, and federal assistance disaster procedures.

Patricia Babcox, Huntington T. Block. Patricia discussed the team approach of broker, adjuster, and insured in disaster insurance coverage.

James McDonald, Director, Institute for Disaster Research at Texas Tech, Lubbock, TX. Jim provided a thorough presentation of wind dynamic effects, and predictable results of high wind on specific building construction. He stressed the importance of good building engineering in disaster mitigation.

Sarah James, Sarah James & Assoc., Cambridge, MA. Sarah is working with FEMA on a handbook dealing with before, during and after a disaster.

Jerry Podany, Conservator, J. Paul Getty Museum, Malibu, CA. Jerry urged the tailoring of emergency planning for the individual institution making the plan. Involving all departments, and exchanging ideas among departments, helps in customizing a plan. He praised the flip book format the Nelson Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City has used.

The case history of the Huntington Library fire presented by Barbara Roberts provided a clear outline of the role of assessment and analysis of a crisis, decision making, task assignment, action implementation, communication among those involved and to the public, and continuing evaluation and summary of the emergency response.

Carol Turchan, Paper Conservator, The Chicago Historical Society, gave details of the flood experience at the Society. The complexity of tasks in emergency response, such as water and electrical turn offs, clearing of affected storage areas, moving archival materials and fine art works, temporary holding areas, assessing damage, immediate and longer term treatment decisions, organizing workers and tasks, and communicating within the Society and to the public, were discussed.

The response to Hurricane Iniki, Kauai, Hawaii involved several institutions holding cultural collections, and was impacted by island-wide devastation, total absence of electrical power and telephone service, and restricted access to the island. General collection environment was addressed as soon as possible by the Pacific Regional Conservation Center (PRCC), Bishop Museum, Honolulu, HI, funded by a NEH emergency grant. Cultural institutions were helped by the PRCC staff in their requests for FEMA an NEH emergency conservation funds, and public clinics were held to assist in artifact damage assessment and response. Individual artifact treatment continues to be addressed. Diana Dicus, Objects Conservator, PRCC, noted that it was difficult to communicate with the Kauai institutions because of the personal emergencies of their staffs and the curtailed communication services. Limited PRCC staffing made it impossible to designate one staff person exclusively for communication, evaluation, and summary, which hampered the flow of information within PRCC and the Bishop Museum, and restricted communication with colleagues and the general public.

In conclusion, the conference elucidated the idea that disaster response requires a state of mind, a state of readiness and preparedness. Common sense and factual information in planning and preparing for emergency situations were stressed. Emphasized points of importance in the success of preparing for emergency include:

The geographical and institutional affinity group sessions intended as an integral part of the conference were eliminated due to a shortage of time.

Following the two day conference, a three day disaster mitigation workshop was held at the Campbell Center.

Diana H. Dicus, Fellow
Ethnology Laboratory
Canadian Conservation Institute
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada

Symposium on the Use of Adhesives and Consolidants in Textile Conservation

January 21-22, 1993
Cooper-Hewitt Museum
New York, New York

A symposium specifically directed to new applications and developments in the use of adhesives in textile conservation was held in January 1993 at the Cooper-Hewitt Museum in New York. The symposium was organized by a committee of the Textile Conservation Group, Inc. headed by Vuka Roussakis from the American Museum of Natural History.

The first day of the two day symposium began with general information on adhesives and their application to treatments in textile conservation, including a brief overview of classification of adhesives and consolidants by Mary Kaldany and Nancy Pollak, review of current methods used in the testing of adhesives and consolidants by Paula Volent, and a discussion on the implications of adhesive linings for textiles by Barbara Appelbaum and Paul Himmelstein.

Afternoon presentations on specific adhesive types and their possible applications to textiles included new research and techniques in the application of starch pastes (Fonda Thomsen), cellulose ethers (Cathleen Baker), ethylene vinyl acetate emulsions (Deborah Bede), ethylene vinyl acetate resin-based adhesives (Harold Mailand), poly (vinyl acetate) resins (Himmelstein and Appelbaum), and the use of the acrylic resin poly (n-butyl methacrylate) (Michaela Keyserlingk).

Th second day of the symposium opened with Jane Downs report on the results of the Canadian Conservation Institute testing program on poly (vinyl acetate) and acrylic adhesives followed by individual case histories of textile treatments involving the use of adhesives. The symposium revealed a wide range of applications and approaches to the use of adhesives in textile conservation.

As Michaela Keyserlingk observed in her review of the use of adhesives in textile conservation at the 1990 ICOM Meeting: "The question (in textile conservation) should no longer be to glue or not to glue, but when to glue and especially what application methods to employ. The use of adhesives is not a tool for the dilettante who cannot sew, but neither should the sewer condemn out of hand the use of adhesives." (ICOM Committee for Conservation 1990, Volume 1, p. 307.) The symposium on adhesives addressed these issues as well as providing a well rounded overview of new uses and developments in adhesives in conservation.

Paula Volent
Conservator of Art on Paper
Venice, California

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