Society of Southwest Archivists

How Climate Change is Impacting Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums

  • 06 Jan 2023 9:44 AM
    Message # 13046978

    BATON ROUGE – Cultural heritage institutions, including galleries, libraries, archives and museums, or GLAMs, are being impacted by climate change. About 56 percent of these institutions reported increased damage to collections due to water or moisture between 2017-2019. Of that damage, about 10 percent was the result of natural disasters. To further understand the impact of climate change on these cultural and information repositories, the Institute of Museum and Library Services based in Washington, D.C. has awarded a grant to LSU School of Library & Information Science Associate Professor Edward Benoit III and LSU Department of Geography & Anthropology Associate Professor Jill Trepanier with collaborator Arizona State University’s School of Sustainability Associate Professor Jennifer Vanos. The project titled, “PROTECCT-GLAM: Providing Risk of The Environment’s Changing Climate Threats for Galleries, Libraries, Archives & Museums,” is funded over three years with a total of $473,146. 


          “I am particularly excited about working with those in the Library & Information Science field because I think we can show how interdisciplinary projects can be extremely beneficial to the public. By pairing expertise from vastly different fields, it allows us to answer some of the most difficult questions related to climate change threats and the needs of GLAMs that cannot be answered without the help of multiple scientists. After all, two heads are better than one,” said Trepanier, who is an extreme weather expert.


          The IMLS award was part of the National Leadership Grants. This project is one of 39 funded proposals of 139 applications this year. LSU, in partnership with Arizona State University, will develop a national categorical climate change risk assessment scale for GLAMs. Now more than ever, cultural heritage institutions must assess their unique climate change-related threats to their collections and missions as part of their overall disaster and emergency management plans. According to the 2019 Heritage Health Information Survey, 58 percent of institutions do not have a disaster plan with 75 percent lacking both a plan and staff training to implement a plan. 


          “Understanding the array of potential impacts from weather extremes that are being exacerbated by climate change is vital for protecting these valuable assets within GLAMs. We know that infrastructure is at risk during such events, and this work will enable us to project potential impacts to GLAMs spatially and by hazard type for advanced preparation and prevention efforts,” Vanos said.


          The research team will use geographic information system analysis to identify GLAM-specific risks, including tropical cyclone wind and/or flooding damage, inland precipitation and extreme heat signatures. They will use further statistical estimation of risk and visualization to develop a comprehensive risk assessment scale that will allow institutions to properly identify their climate change-related risks, create emergency management plans, develop short- and long-term mitigation plans and prioritize funding opportunities.


          The project will leverage a target group of more than 92,000 cultural heritage intuitions within the United States including art museums, children’s museums, history museums, natural history museums, science museums, zoos and nature centers, historical societies, historical sites, college and university archives, community archives, corporate archives, governmental archives, religious archives, tribal archives, academic libraries, public libraries, school libraries, special libraries and government libraries.  


          The project team will make results publicly available and GLAMs nationwide will benefit from this project. During the final year of the project, the research team will host a national institute to further identify climate change challenges for GLAMs and prioritize future research. 


          “The PROTECCT-GLAM project builds off previous research within each effective field and will create a unified approach for institutions to address their specific risks. Cultural heritage institutions can utilize this information to better prioritize future projects and requests needing additional funding to preserve and protect our cultural heritage. I am particularly excited to include more than 25 undergraduate and graduate students in the research process to give them hands-on research experience. The participating students come from both the Library & Information Science and climate-science fields and will benefit from the interdisciplinary collaboration,” Benoit said.

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