February 15, 2015      
Northern States Conservation CenterNorthern States
Conservation Center

The Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter

Emergency Preparedness  

In This Issue
You Better Watch Out..
Regional Workshops
Conferences and Meetings
Why do we need a Disaster Preparedness and Response Plan?
The Psychology of Disasters
March 2015 Courses
Submissions and Comments
Upcoming Classes

"You Better Watch Out....You'd Better Not Cry"...'cause it's not Santa who's coming to town!

By Steve Layne


If you pay attention to the news, you notice there is a lot of turmoil, around the world and within the United States. Those who for one reason or another feel alienated or suppressed by Westerners, especially by Americans, have been told to individually or in groups, wreak havoc wherever the opportunity presents itself. Havoc includes armed assault, kidnapping, murder, explosive devices, fires, destruction of property, and more. Museums, historic houses, and especially national iconic sites...are "soft (vulnerable) targets."


It is foolhardy to think that these elements cannot or will not strike in your neighborhood. Regardless of the size, scope, or nature of your institution, the possibility of a threat becoming reality exists. Once it begins, it is too late to think about how to respond.  


Prevention measures are available. Solid defenses are affordable. Start with staff awareness and an efficient reporting system. Absolute control of your building's perimeter is a must. Package inspection, infrequently used by many institutions, is a viable prevention tool. The Philadelphia Museum of Art inspects every parcel and container coming into the institution, daily. And everything going out....efficiently, and with strong attention to visitor relations. The excuse "we can't afford it," or "we don't have adequate staff" is just that, an excuse. We are going to have tragic events in this country. Do what you can, now, to avoid being a victim. Have a plan for terrorism prevention. For direct information about preventing measures, contact the International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection (IFCPP), the Department of Homeland Security, The FBI, or your local law enforcement agency.


Stevan P. Layne is the principal consultant and chief executive of Layne Consultants International, a leading provider of cultural property protection advice. He teaches the online course MS 107: Introduction to Museum Security plus two Security Certificate courses MS304 Security I: Certified Institutional Protection Specialist and MS305 Security II: Certified Institutional Manager. Steve is a former police chief, public safety director and museum security director. He is the author of Safeguarding Cultural Properties: Security for Museums, Libraries, Parks and Zoos, and the Business Survival Guide. Steve regularly presents to professional associations and has consulted with more than 400 museums and other institutions. Steve is the founding director of the International Foundation for Cultural Property Protection and responsible for the professional training and certification of more than 1,000 museum professionals. For more information visit his web site Layne Consultants International.

Steal This Handbook
Steal This Handbook
Author: the Southeastern Registrars Committee. This is a comprehensive book covering emergency preparedness and response for every conceivable type and scale of disaster on historic and non-historic materials. Written by the Southeastern Registrars Committee of the American Association of Museums, we purchase it before it is bound and have it punched to fit in a three ring binder. Adding dividers, it becomes an instant addition to an institutional emergency response plan. Response professionals can add useful articles to the enormous amount of recovery information already provided in the book.
Steal This Handbook $25.00
Care of Archaeological Artifacts from the Field to the Lab
Archaeological finds come out of the ground fragile - and they often stay that way. Yet archaeologists and museum professionals have few clear guidelines for handling, moving, storing and displaying such materials. Participants in Care of Archaeological Artifacts From the Field to the Lab learn techniques for safely lifting and packing artifacts, safe transportation and temporary and permanent storage. The course also covers a broad range of excavation environments, including the Arctic, wet sites, tropical and temperate. Though Care of Archaeological Artifacts is not intended to train archaeological conservators, it is designed to help participants understand what can and can't be done to save the artifacts they unearth.

Join Diana Komejan for an informative journey into the care of archaeological artifacts in MS215:Care of Archaeological Artifacts From the Field to the Lab March 2 to 27, 2015.
Regional Workshops

Where you can find some of our instructors in 2015:

Gawain Weaver
  • Care and Identification of Photographs, Amherst, MA, February 16-19, 2015

Helen Alten
  • AASLH Collections Management and Practices, Haines, AK, May 14-15, 2015

Stevan P. Layne

  • CIPS Regional Security Officer Certification Class, Addison Gallery of American Art, Andover, MA, March 16 or 17, 2015 
  • CISS Regional Security Supervisor Certification Class, Mead Art Museum, Amherst, MA, April 6-8, 2015  

For more information: http://ifcpp.org/training-calendar  


American Alliance of Museums Annual Meeting 

  • CIPM Regional Security Management Certification Class, Atlanta, GA, April 29, 2015
  • Management of Aggressive Behavior (MOAB) Introductory Class, Atlanta, GA, April 29, 2015

Conferences and Meetings


California Museums Association

San Diego, CA

February 18-20, 2015


Mid-Atlantic Association of Museums

Building Museums Symposium

Boston, MA

March 22-24, 2015


The Smithsonian Institution and Office of Protection Services

National Conference On Cultural Property Protection

Washington, D.C.

March 26-27, 2015

Colorado-Wyoming Association of Museums

Craig, CO

April 16-18, 2015


Association of Academic Museums and Galleries

Atlanta, GA
April 24-26, 2015


American Alliance of Museums

Atlanta, GA

April 26-29, 2015


Society for the Preservation of Natural History Collections

Gainesville, FL

May 17-23, 2015


Association of Midwest Museums Conference

Cincinnati, OH

July 19-22, 2015


Society of American Archivists

Cleveland, OH

August 16-22, 2015.


American Association for State and Local History

Louisville, KY
September 16-19, 2015


Mountain-Plains Museums Association

Wichita, KS

September 27 - October 1, 2015


Southeastern Museums Conference

Jacksonville, FL

October 12 - 14, 2015


Western Museums Association

San Jose, CA

October 24-27, 2015.


New England Museum Association

Portland, ME

November 4-6, 2015


NAI National Workshop

Virginia Beach, VA
November 10-14, 2015 
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Welcome to the Collections Caretaker e-Newsletter from Northern States Conservation Center. The newsletter is designed to bring you timely and helpful content that is pertinent to situations we all encounter in our museum and archives work. Feel free to let us know what topics you would like to see featured in Collections Caretaker or even contribute an article.
2015 Online Course Schedule Now Available 
The 2015 museumclasses.org course schedule is now available at
We are working on adding courses to the schedule over the next couple of months, so come back and check for new additions. 
Why do we need a Disaster Preparedness and Response Plan?
By Terri Schindel


A museum is responsible for the safety, health and welfare of its staff, volunteers and visitors in the event of an emergency. The museum likewise has a legal and ethical responsibility to the community it serves to preserve the collection it holds in public trust. The museum recognizes that it is an integral part of the community and will work community-wide following a major disaster. With this in mind, a good disaster preparedness and response plan is vital to the sound management of a museum's assets and will ensure that its collection survives a disaster in the best possible condition.[1] 

We have reached a point in our institutional history and professional development that goes well beyond beginning to plan for disasters. We must become proficient and confident in our ability to cope with an emergency.


Emergencies, disasters, accidents and injuries can occur in any setting and at anytime, usually without warning. Museums potentially could have a greater range of disasters than many other institutions. Museum collections are both vulnerable and irreplaceable; even small accidents can harm a collection. Being prepared physically and psychologically to handle emergencies is an individual as well as an organizational responsibility.



Realistic Expectations:
  • Since the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, people understand the need for emergency planning, but do not realize the many steps it takes to be prepared. Expect resistance, start small, make sure management supports the process and keep your sense of humor.
  • Budget: Insist on a line-item in your museum's budget for emergency preparedness and plan to increase the budgeted amount as you begin to practice and implement procedures.
  • Time: It will take longer than you expect. You must schedule time to work on disaster preparedness weekly for a year, but you still may not be finished.
  • The quality of your plan will be the result of training and good communication. Remain flexible and open to learning new procedures.

To achieve the goals and objectives of disaster planning, spend time forming a planning team, assessing risk, determining health and safety issues, finding resources such as the local emergency manager, first responders, insurance information and local and regional personnel willing to assist. Once you have that material you can begin assembling a resource notebook and completing the plan. Present preliminary findings to the emergency planning coordinator, incident commander, and the museum's governing body. You will gather:

  • Charts of community and institutional resources,
  • Lists of supplies, and
  • Telephone trees.

The resulting resource notebook will include a two-page report detailing your next steps. One future step is writing and practicing the plan. Another is an evaluation of the plan after practicing it, with time to make adjustments. The two-page report helps you identify the resources needed for the next steps and establishes a timeline for implementing the plan.


Writing the Disaster Preparedness Plan


A disaster recovery plan outlines the steps necessary for managing a disaster in a safe and efficient manner.


Writing a disaster preparedness plan can be overwhelming. There is a large amount of information available. Creating a written plan may seem tough. Delegate, delegate, delegate. Delegate specific research and writing tasks to each planning team member and set deadlines for completing each section. If you are the only person in a small museum, stay focused on the most important aspects of the plan. These are the telephone tree, developing a relationship with your community's first responders, and a list of local supply sources. A short, concise plan can be effective. Remember that the plan will be revised and updated annually.


To learn more about writing and implementing a Disaster Preparedness Plan and recovering from a disaster take a look at our three courses on the subject: MS002 Collection Protection--Are You Prepared? and MS205 Disaster Plan Research and Writing with Terri Schindel and MS253 Disaster Preparation & Recovery with Helen Alten.


Terri Schindel, graduated from the Courtauld Art Institute, University of London with a concentration in textile conservation. Since 1988 she has taught disaster preparedness, response, recovery and salvage, collections care and preventive conservation online and in-person to museum, library and archive staff. Ms. Schindel specializes in delivering collections care and preventive conservation workshops to people working in small, rural and tribal museums. She is familiar with the many challenges and lack of resources facing these institutions. Ms. Schindel is committed to maintaining the uniqueness of each museum while ensuring that they serve as a resource for future generations.

The Psychology of Disasters

By Helen Alten


The Impact of Disasters on People


Events of all sizes create a notable disruption in people's lives because these events cause significant change. The trauma of a disaster results in cognitive, behavioral, emotional, physical, and spiritual responses in those affected by it, including the recovery workers.


The emotional and physical response of each person depends on many factors. These include the intensity of the disaster; the time between the event and recovery; the emotional and physical strength of the individual; the depth of feelings and level of panic felt by the individual; and prior experience with a similar event.


Emotional symptoms that might occur include irritability, anger, denial, fear, sadness, depression, grief, mood swings, isolation and withdrawal, feeling helpless and overwhelmed, and self-blame and/or blaming others. Physical symptoms can include loss of appetite, insomnia, fatigue or hyperactivity, concentration and memory problems, or increased use of alcohol or drugs. No one should be blamed for their reactions. All of these are coping mechanisms in a difficult time. It is important that we understand that all of this is normal, needs to be accepted, and needs to be treated before it makes the disaster much worse than it already is.


Psychological First Aid


Psychological First Aid is part of the recovery process as much as physical stabilization of your artifacts. It involves providing contact, engagement, safety and comfort for each individual. A therapist identifies the needs and concerns of each person and provides them with practical assistance and information on coping methods, social supports and collaborative services that can provide more help. Remember, after the first few hours, the members of a recovery team are also psychologically affected by the disaster.


A therapist's first contact with those affected by a disaster should address needs of individuals, families and communities. The goal is to reduce the initial distress caused by traumatic events. Then the therapist works to foster short and long-term adaptive functioning in each person, according to the culture and the ages of the affected individuals.


When making contact with survivors of a disaster it is important to be gentle, compassionate, and respectful of individual feelings. The therapist's contact should be suggestive, not conclusive, informal and unobtrusive. It takes time for survivors to feel safe and trusting. Patience is important to reduce fear and apprehension. Answer pressing questions, concerns and needs, and support their individual coping efforts.


The impact of trauma can reduce the ability to concentrate, disrupt attention, and impair cognitive skills. Think about when someone near to you died. Did you have trouble remembering where you put the car keys? Were you wandering around, forgetting important things, feeling like a zombie? Trauma can lead to regression and poor coping mechanisms that result in anger. It is important to create and sustain better feelings around these individuals by stressing safety and staying calm. Create an atmosphere that promotes connections with others and self-sufficiency, empowerment and hope.


First Responders are Not Immune


First responders are not immune to psychological reactions to disaster situations. First responders include emergency management personnel, healthcare workers, psychologists and social workers, contractors, museum/library conservators and staff and volunteers. Some of the factors causing stress in first responders are long hours, not knowing the duration of the deployment, unfamiliar context, new challenges, time pressures, multiple or conflicting priorities, previous traumatic experiences, and fear of death, injury and/or illness.


Mitigation Strategies


Mitigation strategies include briefing personnel before the response operation begins. Make everyone aware of the expected emotional responses in victims and responders. Emphasize teamwork and sharing both the workload and the emotional load. Assign partners to help each other and be sure to rotate personnel to minimize fatigue. Take breaks away from the incident area and emphasize the need for good nutrition, frequent water breaks, and rest. Talk about the experience and phase-out workers by gradually assigning them to easier recovery activities. If possible, include daily debriefing. Add a therapist to the recovery team to help people continue to cope effectively.


Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is an intense physical and emotional response to thoughts and reminders about the traumatic event. If you see symptoms within yourself or one of your colleagues, reach out for assistance. Do not suffer in silence. Disasters and other traumatic events affect everyone. Be a survivor and not a victim.


Helen Alten founded Northern States Conservation Center 18 years ago and http://www.museumclasses.org 10 years ago. She is an objects conservator with a desire to bring about change through museums, improving our communities and the patrimony we leave to our off-spring. Helen Alten teaches the online course MS 253: Disaster Preparation & Recovery and several others. Helen graduated from the Institute of Archaeology, University of London with a degree in Material Science and Archaeological Conservation. She was conservator for the Montana Historical Society and the Alaska State Museums prior to founding a field education program in collections preservation for the Upper Midwest. She has responded to museum fires, floods, roof collapses and other disasters. She is a prolific writer with numerous published articles on collections care. 

March 2015 Courses


MS 108: Fundamentals of Museum Volunteer Programs

March 2 to 27, 2015

Instructor:  Karin Hostetter


Volunteers are essential for most non-profit institutions. But good volunteers aren't born -- they are made. Even though they don't get paychecks, it takes time and money to have effective volunteers. Fundamentals of Museum Volunteer Programs teaches the basics of a strong volunteer program. Topics include recruiting, training and rewarding volunteers, as well as preparing staff. Instruction continues through firing and liabilities. Participants will end up with sound foundational knowledge for starting a new or strengthening an existing volunteer program based on a nine-step process.


MS 205 Disaster Plan Research and Writing

March 2 to April 24, 2015  

Instructor:  Terri Schindel


Every museum needs to be prepared for fires, floods, chemical spills, tornadoes, hurricanes and other disasters. But surveys show 80 percent lack trained staff, emergency-preparedness plans for their collections, or both. Disaster Plan Research and Writing begins with the creation of disaster-preparedness teams, the importance of ongoing planning, employee safety, board participation and insurance. Participants will learn everything they need to draft their own disaster-preparedness plans. They also will be required to incorporate colleagues in team-building exercises. A written disaster-preparedness plan is not only a good idea, it's also a requirement for accreditation. In the second half of the course, instructor Terri Schindel reviews and provides input as participants write plans that outline the procedures to follow in various emergencies. The completed plan prepares museums physically and mentally to handle emergencies that can harm vulnerable and irreplaceable collections. You will have a completed institutional disaster-preparedness and response plan at the end of the course. Once completed with this course, we recommend the Disaster Preparation and Recovery course taught by Susan Duhl and Helen Alten to provide more information about staff organization and management during and after a disaster.


MS 215: Care of Archaeological Artifacts from the Field to the Lab

March 2 to 27, 2015

Instructor:  Diana Komejan

Archaeological finds come out of the ground fragile - and they often stay that way. Yet archaeologists and museum professionals have few clear guidelines for handling, moving, storing and displaying such materials. Participants in Care of Archaeological Artifacts From the Field to the Lab learn techniques for safely lifting and packing artifacts, safe transportation and temporary and permanent storage. The course also covers a broad range of excavation environments, including the Arctic, wet sites, tropical and temperate. Though Care of Archaeological Artifacts is not intended to train archaeological conservators, it is designed to help participants understand what can and can't be done to save the artifacts they unearth.


MS 243: Making Museum Quality Mannequins

March 2 to April 10, 2015

Instructor: Helen Alten


A good mannequin makes an exhibit look professional. Unfortunately, most museum staff do not know how to make a costume look good on a mannequin. The result is that costumes look flat, provide incorrect information or are being damaged. Buying an expensive "museum quality mannequin" is not the solution - garments rarely fit without alterations to the mannequin. Learn how to measure garments and transfer that information to construct a new form or alter an old form so that it accurately fits the garment, creating an accurate and safe display. Learn about the materials that will and won't damage the textile. Making Museum Quality Mannequins provides an overview of all of the materials used to construct mannequins in today's museums. Learn inexpensive mannequin solutions and how different materials may use the same additive or subtractive construction technique. Fabrication methods for many mannequin styles are described. Finishing touches - casting and molding, hair, arms, legs, stands and base, undergarments - are discussed with examples of how they change the presentation of a garment.


MS 303: Found in the Collection: Orphans, Old Loans and Abandoned Property

March 2 to April 3, 2015

Instructor: Lin Nelson-Mayson


Every museum has a few stray items. Some lost tags long ago. Others turn up as surprises during inventories. A few are all that remain from long-ago exhibits. While you'll want to keep some, others may be deteriorating. Even worse, some pose significant hazards for staff and the rest of the collection. All raise legal and professional questions. How do you deal with objects that have no records? Or loans from unidentified or deceased lenders? Found in the Collection addresses how to identify abandoned objects and old loans. It further covers the application of state laws and rules for identifying owners or establishing ownership.


MS 008: Buy In: Getting All of Staff to Support Preservation  

March 16 to 20, 2015

Instructor: Helen Alten


To get anything done in your museum, you often need to get other staff to support the idea. All too often, preservation is left to one or two staff members and others believe it doesn't apply to them. For example, it is hard to successfully implement a pest management plan without full staff support. Everyone must buy into the notion of preservation. But how? Readings will introduce some ideas and participants in this course will brainstorm with Helen about what works, what might work - and what doesn't.

Submissions and Comments


How to submit an article or upcoming workshops for inclusion in the Newsletter:  

If you would like to submit an article, notice of an organizational meeting or upcoming workshop for an upcoming Collections Caretaker Newsletter, send your submission to peggy@collectioncare.org.  


We are always looking for contributions to this newsletter. Submission deadline is the 10th of each month. 


Have a comment or suggestion?   


Send it to peggy@collectioncare.org

Northern States Conservation Center (NSCC) provides training, collection care, preservation and conservation treatment services. NSCC offers online museum studies classes at www.museumclasses.org in Collections Management & Care, Museum Administration & Management, Exhibit Practices and Museum Facilities Management.


Helen Alten, Director

Peggy Schaller, Publications Manager