Joint 44th AIC Annual Meeting & 42nd CAC-ACCR Annual Conference, Breakout Session: Emergency, May 16, “Disaster Plan in Greece,” by Maria Lyratzi

I was drawn to this talk merely from the title, having worked in and visited Greece a multitude of times. Maria Lyratzi first introduced herself as the paper conservator for the Library of the Institute of Educational Policy/Greek Ministry of Education in Athens, Greece. She then dove right in to her talk, which covered quite a lot in a short amount of time. Maria was first influenced to begin her path to creating emergency response plans in Greece via the (former) American Institute for Conservation – Collections Emergency Response Team (AIC-CERT), now the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works – National Heritage Responders (FAIC-NHR). She admired how AIC-CERT showed emergency response plans in a systematic way to where she could adopt and adapt for Greece’s circumstances.
Maria gave a background of Greece and the types of natural disasters they experience (photo) as well as the legal framework that builds the foundation for protecting cultural heritage. Currently, the constitution of Greece, Article 24, states that “the protection of the natural and cultural environment constitutes a duty of the State. The State is bound to adopt special preventive or repressive measures for the preservation of the environment.”greekblogphoto1
The current State of Greece was established in 1830, and not too shortly afterwards in 1833, the Greek Archaeological Service was founded. And just one year following, the first archaeological law of Greece was established. Amendments to this law have occurred in 1899, 1914, 1921, and 1932. The current law, No. 3028/2002 is in effect and can be read here:


She then went over the main points of the archaeological law and the responsible authorities. The responsible authorities include:

Ministry of Culture

Responsibilities include: archaeological sites, historical sites, all types of museums, all types of monuments (Note: mentioned only ~30% of monuments are under the auspices of the Ministry of Culture)

Ministry of Education, Research, and Religious Affairs

Responsibilities include: Department of Government Archives and the Department of Libraries (Note: there is no specific department for the protection of libraries and archives)

Other Ministries (including Earthquake Planning and Protection Organization, EPPO)

Responsibilities include: Processes and designs the country’s earthquake policies, publishing informational and educational materials, and having a program of pre-seismic control of all public buildings (Note: only ~30% of public buildings are checked)

Public Authorities

                Responsibilities include: Local organizations that collaborate with Ministries

Academic Institutes (indirectly)

Responsibilities include: Supervising postgraduate/doctorate projects, researching and scientific programs

Also mentioned were other authorities (General Secretariat for Civil Protection, GSCP) that should protect cultural heritage, but currently do not. As one can probably tell, the laws focus on mostly archaeological antiquities, rather than the wider cultural heritage.
Maria then gave an example of an online system that tracks risks of earthquake areas through the Institute of Geodynamics.

 Measures of Our Cultural Heritage Protection Against Strong Earthquakes

The site has several different tools, including a map with various options, a list of all the monuments and their associated risk, and an area for local research. It maps various monuments, but not nearly enough. The Institute of Geodynamics’ method of collecting data covered monuments and their condition in regional, seismotectonics, and geological data. They then conducted a hazard assessment for each monument. A map was developed where the user is able to choose a multitude of categories to determine associated risks. Maria had been proposed by the Institute of Geodynamics to be a part of their team to expand their map to include locations of libraries and archives. She was also asked to educate local authorities and the personnel of museums, libraries, and archives in Greece for disaster planning.
Maria had additional support from the Library of the Institute of Educational Policy to publish the first disaster plan in 2009 on their website, to organize and run a three day Greek-American seminar in 2013, and to publish her first book on disaster planning in Greece, a culmination of 5-6 years of work, released 2009. The topic of the three-day seminar in 2013 was Disaster Response and Conservation. There were two days dedicated to lectures of disaster preparedness and salvaging art, libraries, and historic collections with one day hands on in disaster recovery training.
She then went on to discuss two surveys given to Greek scientists. The first covered the recorded catastrophic events to cultural institutions from 2002-2012 and the second presented the degree of readiness of major cultural institutions in the prevention and handling of natural and manmade disasters. The data was collected by the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSAT) and the Fire Brigade, neither of which have kept formal records of disaster-affected institutions.
Results of the first survey include: 255 cultural institutions calling the fire brigade to assist in fire and flood incidents. Most of them were incidents on archaeological sites. ELSAT has no data for fire brigade assistance for earthquakes. The fire brigade gave no descriptions of the flood or fire incidents that have occurred in cultural institutions. There are no records for disaster incidents to buildings or collections. It is unknown if the files even exist. From the first survey, most floods reported were on archaeological sites (~71%), with, not surprising, rain water being the main cause. Most fires reported were on archaeological sites (~73%), versus museums (~15%). The cause of fires in museums was of unknown origins.
The second survey, the very first of its kind in Greece, was sent electronically to representatives of all types of official museums, private museums, libraries, and archives:

103 public museums, 77 private museums, 188 libraries, and 1 archives

With an allowance of one month to complete, the response rate was 21%

Maria shared various survey questions with the results, below are a few of those slides:
Plans for the future include(d) a one-day seminar on May 28, 2016 in Nafplio with The Center of Hellenic Studies and Harvard University on how to prepare a disaster plan for your institution. Maria is planning to prepare a five-day seminar for the Bank of Greece in Athens inviting the FAIC-NHR representatives and representatives of all the Greek authorities who should be cooperating in the prevention and response of disasters to cultural heritage. She would like to conduct additional research on the degree of preparedness of libraries and archives in the prevention of disasters, to hold disaster prevention seminars all over Greece, to build a volunteer team to confront disasters all over the country similar to the FAIC National Heritage Response, and to create a website with instructions on disaster preparedness.
The audience was very captivated and supportive by the fact she has taken on this giant task by herself. She hopes to have help from volunteers and is trying to contact Greek ministries almost every day. With the current state of Greece and having seen it in person, I am not surprised on the bulk of the results from the surveys. I am surprised that Maria is able to undertake this responsibility for her country and expand disaster preparedness to libraries and archives and wish her the best of luck.
The Constitution of Greece
Law and the Politics of the Past: Legal Protection of Cultural Heritage in Greece by Daphne Voudouri
Great Moments in Greek Archaeology Edited by Panos Valavanis
Further Reading:
FAIC-NHR (formerly AIC-CERT)
Disaster Response Plan (RAS) in museums and libraries
Purchase Maria’s disaster book HERE
Purchase Maria’s children’s books (really!) HERE