Fire extinguisher in use

Disaster planning can be fun

Contributed by Marla Taylor

Sitting on my office shelf in a red binder is the Peabody disaster plan.  No institution ever wants to use it, but it is essential to be prepared.  Our plan is in need of its regular update, and fortunately for us, the Addison Gallery of American Art (also part of Phillips Academy) hosted a three-day seminar and full-scale emergency response disaster training for the protection of cultural assets in March.  Over 100 people took part in the workshop, including several members of Peabody staff.

The workshop included presentations from conservators, companies who specialize in disaster clean-up, and organizations that can help think through the disaster plan with us.  We learned the basics of painting conservation, how to mitigate water damage, how to dry/salvage wet books and papers, and how to identify and deal with pests in the collection.  Training stations were presented so that we could try all of these methods ourselves and have the opportunity to ask specific questions relating to our own collections.

The big highlight for me was the triage scenario meticulously installed at the Addison.  The Addison repainted one of their temporary galleries to appear smoke damaged, and they displayed pieces of art that had been previously damaged to replicate how fire damage may present itself in a museum.  As a team, we were given only 10 minutes to remove the damaged artwork (without additional damage!), set up work flow to begin cleaning objects, and isolate the most damaged pieces.  This was fun and realistic.

Now comes the hard work – applying all of this new knowledge to our own disaster planning process.

The emergency response and disaster planning workshop was generously made possible by a grant from the Abbot Academy Fund, continuing Abbot’s tradition of boldness, innovation, and caring.

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