Artful Disaster Prevention

The Forum called Alliance for Response, featured representatives from FEMA, the National Archives and local Offices of Emergency Management.

Lori Foley heads up emergency programs with the Heritage Foundation in Washington.  She says it's all about striking relationships between the cultural community and emergency managers.

"It's really difficult for small institutions, small historical societies, small house museums to be able to actually do something about it, when they don't even know where to start.  So we always first tell institutions, cultural institutions, that the first things they have to do is think about themselves.  They need to have a disaster plan for their institution, for their people first and foremost, but also for their collection."

The Museum of Fine Arts Houston is no stranger to disaster management in the region.  It assisted the Galveston Historical Foundation after Hurricane Ike in 2008.  Dwayne Jones, the Foundation's executive director, says they suffered a lot of water damage.

"I vowed after Hurricane Ike, that I didn't want other cultural institutions in our region and across the country, to have to go through the experiences that we did.  We were unprepared for a lot of the things that we met, into a world of emergency management, that we in cultural institutions just don't train for.  And yet, they're the people who we have to contact with, we have to work with, and they have rules and regulations to follow, and none of that stuff had been things that I had been prepared for, or my colleagues."

Jones says the conference is a first step to get organized and respond to disaster.  Minette Boesel is the Houston Mayor's assistant for cultural affairs.  With 19 historic districts and 18 museums, she says its crucial that efforts be
taken for the preservation and conservation of artistic and historic items.

"It's also an economic engine for our city as well, in terms of tourism development, and an educational engine, in terms of school children and others that come to learn.  So, I think this conference is very, very important that we start collectively to work toward a response plan, for emergencies for all these museums that are here in the museum district."

Steven Pine with the Museum of Fine Arts was impressed with the turnout to the forum.  He says everyone knows the importance of being prepared for any disaster.

"No one can do enough by themselves, and any one institution could perhaps be quite severely impacted by a large storm.  So, I think if we expand our network of support to a larger area, we can draw upon resources that no one institution could devote to a response."

Pine adds we we have to be prepared locally, to be able to move on from disasters.

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