New plans to protect Alaska's History

Published: Jan. 14, 2020 at 7:47 PM AKST
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Many lessons were learned on how Alaskans in the Anchorage Bowl can protect themselves and their property after the November 30th Earthquake, and the wildfires during last summer. Now with the help of some new grant money, the Division of Libraries, Archives, and Museums are going to teach cultural organizations across the state how to protect the history of Alaska.

Leaders from the Division of Libraries, Archives, and Museums announced that this project is going to be funded by a grant from The National Endowment for the Humanities. They expect the total value of the grant to amount to around $270,000.

According to Anjuli Grantham, Curator of Statewide Services in the Division, the money is going to go towards putting on training sessions for cultural organizations like museums and archives to learn develop emergency response plans for disasters like earthquakes and wildfires.

Grantham said after the November Earthquake, she and other members from the Division went out to help the staff at smaller cultural centers recover. According to her, they had a harder time than some of the larger museums in Alaska.

“What we noticed is that some places had emergency plans in place, but very few actually were the ones who developed the emergency plan and so they weren’t activated,” she said, “as a result people didn’t really know what to do following the earthquake.”

Larger organizations, like the Anchorage Museum, faced minimal damage according to Curator of Alaskan History and Culture, Aaron Leggett.

“Most of the damage was superficial. It was tiles that were meant to fall, it was some cracks in the Artic Studies Center,” Leggett said, “I think it’s a credit to our plans, the designs of our mounts, and our readiness.”

There were some damages to the objects in the exhibits, but again, weren’t nearly as bad as they could have been according to Leggett. He said only 27 objects of a total 27,000 were displaced.

Since they withstood the earthquake so well, the Anchorage Museum will be joining the Division of Libraries, Archives, and Museums once the training starts to help smaller organizations develop better plans to both react and prepare for disasters.

Grantham said an example of the type of preparing they’ll be doing is telling people to know the mechanics of their buildings. They’ll instruct people to do things like keep important objects away from pipes with sprinklers in them.

Additionally, organizations will meet and work with local emergency responders to get familiar and construct emergency response plans.

Grantham said the Division will be working to recruit as many organizations responsible for original works of art and objects of culture in Juneau, Anchorage, and Fairbanks starting in September. The cohorts will be going on five months after that.

It’s all in an effort to preserve history. Leggett said while many important documents and works are archived digitally nowadays, if many objects in museums are destroyed in a disaster, there’s no getting them back.

“Imagine going to France, going to the Louvre, and not being able to see the Mona Lisa,” he said, “or going to D.C. and not being able to see the Declaration of Independence or the Star Spangled Banner. These are objects that connect us to our history and also inform us for the future.”

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