Cultural organizations around the state will soon have the opportunity to have trained facilitators help manage the process of creating a disaster plan for their institutions, thanks to a recent grant awarded to the Maine State Museum from Jane’s Trust.
Last winter’s freezing cold weather highlighted the importance of disaster planning for Maine’s museums and libraries. Several weathered emergency situations stemming from the cold, including the Joshua L. Chamberlain Museum in Brunswick, where a burst water pipe in the parlor of the former residence of the Civil War hero and former governor of Maine caused significant damage to the ceiling and walls, and water stains on some period furnishings. The owners of the Chamberlain Museum, the Pejepscot Historical Society, reached out to the Maine State Museum for advice and soon realized that they were overdue to revisit and update their disaster plan. Thanks to a new statewide partnership, cultural organizations like the Pejepscot Historical Society will soon have the opportunity to use trained facilitators to help them navigate disaster planning.
The Maine State Museum has long recognized that disaster planning is a bit of administrative housekeeping that cultural organizations all too frequently put off until disaster strikes, and a year ago it took the lead in addressing this situation by forming the Cultural Emergency Resource Coalition (CERC: Maine). CERC is a collaborative effort with the Maine Emergency Management Agency and several cultural agencies and conservators, including the Maine State Library, the Maine State Archives, the Maine Historic Preservation Commission, and the association Maine Archives and Museums. In its first year CERC focused on surveying Maine’s cultural community to evaluate the state of disaster planning, developing three levels of disaster planning benchmarks and resources to help streamline disaster planning for institutions of various sizes and complexity, and sponsoring disaster planning workshops. Ellen Dyer, CERC’s Coordinator, noted, “Unsurprisingly, when CERC surveyed the cultural community we discovered that while organizations clearly recognized the importance of disaster planning, even when they had the information they needed to get started many were held back because they lacked the manpower to get it done. This is especially true of Maine’s many small institutions.” Of those cultural organizations that responded to the survey, only 40% reported having any form of disaster plan, and about half of those did not meet some of CERC’s most basic benchmarks.
So, with the Pejepscot Historical Society agreeing to act as a beta site, CERC is developing a facilitation guide that outlines, meeting by meeting, the process for a cultural organization to develop a solid disaster plan. CERC is also working with FEMA to schedule a FEMA Corps team in Maine. A division of AmeriCorps, the FEMA Corps team will consist of approximately eight young adults trained in disaster planning and recovery. After receiving additional training in the needs of cultural organizations and meeting facilitation, they will go into the field and work directly with several of Maine’s libraries, museums, town offices, archives and other collecting institutions, developing disaster plans. Maine State Museum Director Bernard Fishman said, “With two rounds of facilitation planned, one in the fall and one in the spring, CERC should be able to help more than thirty Maine organizations get their plans in order. And the materials developed to support this effort, as well as case studies written from the experience, will support disaster planning within Maine’s cultural community for years to come.”
Organizations interested in participating in the program may apply online through the CERC web site,www.cercmaine.org. Participants will be selected to represent a broad range of institutional sizes, geographical locations, collections types, and building construction. For more information about this project, see the web site or contact the CERC office at CERC.Maine@gmail.com or (207) 287-6696.