UNESCO Japanese Funds in Trust (J-FIT) in partnership with PARBICA (Pacific Regional Branch of the International Council of Archives) provided funding for a very well attended workshop on Disaster Preparedness, Response and Recovery. The workshop was held in Adelaide on 25 October 2019 and was part of the “Designing the Archive” conference.
The workshop was attended by 31 archivists and recordkeepers from Australia, Hong Kong, Kiribati, New Caledonia, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, The Gambia, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu.
The workshop started with a presentation from Dianne Macaskill, vice-chairperson of MOWCAP. She explained that the purpose of the J-FIT was to progress the UNESCO Global Framework for sustainable preservation of documentary heritage through disaster risk reduction and management.
The workshop was based on three guidelines from the PARBICA Recordkeeping Toolkit for Good Governance. The guidelines 20-22 covered Developing a Disaster Preparedness Plan, Developing a Disaster Response Plan and Developing a Disaster Recovery Plan. These and other toolkit guidelines are consistent with achieving Memory of the World objectives and with the MOWCAP Pacific Action Plan on the implementation of the UNESCO Recommendation on Documentary Heritage. The action plan was developed at the PARBICA biennial meeting in Suva, Fiji in 2017. One of the actions was to implement the PARBICA Recordkeeping Toolkit modules on disaster preparedness when they became available.
Another MOWCAP Pacific Action Plan activity was to link the PARBICA Toolkit guidelines to the UNESCO Recommendation so that there is a pathway for Pacific National Archives to implement the Recommendation. Dianne Macaskill launched a draft copy of the pathway and informed participants that it would shortly be on the MOWCAP website and that feedback would be appreciated before it is finalised. The Toolkit covers many of the guidelines needed by Pacific National Archives to implement the Recommendation. One of the significant gaps that has been identified is the availability of access tools.
The facilitators for the workshop were Brandon Oswald and Emilie Leumas. Brandon Oswald is the Founder/Executive director of the non-profit organization Island Culture Archival Support. He has worked on records preservation and disaster preparedness projects throughout the Pacific. Emilie Leumas is a certified archivist and records manager and is the Director of Archives and Records for the Archdiocese of New Orleans. She received national and international recognition for her efforts in disaster recover after Hurricane Katrina.
The facilitators started the meeting by asking the participants to describe disasters they had experienced in their organisations. Many of the participants gave examples of needing to deal with flood and water damage to archives and records.
The approach taken by the facilitators was very practical. For example, their presentation covered the steps based on the PARBICA Toolkit Guidelines for writing a Disaster Preparedness Plan. The importance of planning before a disaster was emphasized throughout the workshop, including identifying vital records and forming relationships with people who could assist after a disaster.
The afternoon of the workshop was spent doing practical exercises such as practicing recovery treatment for wet letters, videos, documents, maps etc. The participants gave very positive feedback on this aspect of the training as they appreciated the opportunity to gain experience handling and treating damaged documents in a learning environment.
All the participants including those funded through UNESCO J-FIT had the opportunity to attend a range of other sessions during the conference week. These included PARBICA’s Recordkeeping for Good Governance Toolkit – Identifying vital business records for government departments; How to conduct outreach activities with a limited budget; The diversity of contexts:colonisation, languages and geography as barriers to access; Same software, different design: implementation of AtoM with limited resources; Reconciliation and Decolonization of National Archives and Co-designing a low-tech digital community archive.
The feedback from participants at the workshop was very, very positive, both about the conference and the workshop. It provided a lot of opportunities to think about planning and managing for disaster recovery as well as the opportunity to develop more confidence to recover from a disaster should one occur. The workshop finished with a thank you to UNESCO, J-FIT and MOWCAP for the funding that enabled the training to be delivered.