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Haiti Earthquake Emergency Response – Saving Cultural Property

Salvaged Art From Haitian Earthquake
 Great news of progress from Haiti is reported by Susan Blakney http://www.westlakeconservators.com/about.htm), a member of the international delegation to serve the Haitians and contribute in the efforts to save cultural property after the devastating earthquakes.

The Smithsonian Institute has just signed a lease with the Haitian Ministry of Culture for what will be known as the "Cultural Recovery Center." The center will be a conservation-preservation-restoration training center for Haitian nationals; and eventually turned over to Haiti as an ongoing conservation lab. For now it will be a conservation / educational work space for AIC-CERT (Rapid Response Team for Cultural Institutions - see below), Smithsonian Institution personnel, and other international teams.

A team of Smithsonian engineers inspected the proposed building for a conservation lab. It was the only sound building in the area, having been built according to building codes by the Army Corps of Engineers. The a 7600 square foot building passed inspections and will become an ideal work place. Efforts are now underway to equip the building for three emergency response labs for cultural materials; Paintings, Book & Paper, Objects &Textiles.

For many months and over several visits, conservation/preservation experts have been escorted to a dozen damaged cultural collections to document their needs and make recommendations for remediation. Although some works have been lost, many many works have been salvaged and will return to good condition with conservation treatments. This will be a long term project and an opportunity to turn around the fate of Haiti's surviving art and artifacts, considered a national treasure.

Scott M. Haskins (www.saveyourstufffromadisaster.com), AIC Professional Associate Member, disaster response expert and preservation specialist (www.preservationcoach.com) says, "The Rapid Responders, AIC-CERT,are made up of dedicated professional conservators with whom I could trust my most precious items. They provide a huge service, much needed during community response efforts."

Last year, responding to floods in Ohio, The American Institute for Conservation (AIC) joined efforts with the Heritage Emergency National Task Force (a program of Heritage Preservation in Washington DC for more than a decade) to provide these emergency services. In times of disaster response, AIC offers assistance through phone calls, email messages, and websites postings. The AIC-CERT coordinator assembles members available to respond by phone or in person, and an AIC-CERT member volunteers to answer the 24-hour phone assistance line. In the past some of the services provided included:

• Creation of priority list for collections recovery

• Cleared a passage for safe and efficient collection removal and recovery.

• Priority collections were transported to a climate-controlled temporary storage site.

The volunteers were trained in basic treatment of wet materials, documentation of collections, and in safety issues in flood damaged buildings. Basic recovery materials suppliers were coordinated.

Gordon Hendrickson, State Archivist at the State Historical Society of Iowa, notes that members of the AIC-CERT team were "there within days" and that their assistance was "really crucial".

The mission of AIC-CERT is to respond to the needs of cultural institutions during emergencies and disasters through coordinated efforts with first responders, state agencies, vendors and the public.

Many of America's cultural institutions are administered by volunteers or a single, full-time staff person. The Response Team will provide human resources and skills to these understaffed institution in a time of need through phone support, damage assessment, and help with salvage organization.

For more information from AIC: An AIC-CERT brochure can be downloaded at http://bit.ly/AIC-CERT You can also donate to support this invaluable service.

Scott M. Haskins 805 564 3438 www.saveyourstufffromadisaster.com

Susan S. Blakney on Facebook and at http://www.westlakeconservators.com/about.htm

News Media Interview Contact
Name: Scott M. Haskins
Title: Author, Art Conservation/Restoration, Pets and Heirlooms, Art Damage, Expert Witness
Group: www.fineartconservationlab.com
Dateline: Santa Barbara, CA United States
Direct Phone: 805-564-3438
Cell Phone: 805 570 4140
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