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

Joint 44th AIC Annual Meeting & 42nd CAC-ACCR Annual Conference, General Session, May 16, “Clandon Park – rising from the ashes,” by Christine Leback Sitwell

In the spring of 2012, as a conservation student at UCL, I had the privilege to visit Clandon Park during a field trip. When I heard of the fire that occurred almost three years after my visit, I was shocked and devastated. My attendance to this talk was driven by a personal resonation with Clandon as well as the curiosity and fascination to see an emergency plan in use, despite the circumstances.

A personal photo of a classmate in the marble hall, 2012 and the marble hall post fire, 2015

Christine Sitwell, the Paintings Conservation Advisor for the National Trust in the UK, discussed the emergency response plan in regards to the fire at Clandon Park. The fire started quite small in a basement office on the right side of the building in the late afternoon of April 29, 2015. The fire then rose through the empty elevator shaft, enabling it to reach the lead covered roof and travel across to the left side of the building. Because of this, items and rooms on the left side, albeit still damaged, were not as badly damaged as the right side of the building. It was estimated that the amount damaged and/or completely lost totaled ninety-five percent.
Clandon Park, being under the auspices of the National Trust, has an emergency plan in place. Ironically, five weeks prior, a training procedure involving the fire brigade occurred at Clandon. Christine briefly went over the basics of the plan, including their incident reporting system. The system involves a phone tree, salvage areas to move objects, security, and something called star item sheets. These star item sheets were developed by property staff that prioritize objects as great significance to the property or of great art historical value. They are clear, simple, and to be used by the fire brigade when salvaging items. They are laminated and have two copies, one on the property as well as one in the regional office. Below are the two example slides she provided.
clandon slide1 clandon slide2
Once these objects have been removed from the property, they are moved to designated salvage areas, inventoried, and finally moved to more secure locations. Three of the items salvaged included three paintings that, fortunately or unfortunately, had to be cut from their frames as the paintings in their frames were much too heavy and risky to be removed together. Positively, the frames were saved as well. Clandon has bottom hanging frames just for this reason, the frames hang at the bottom for ease of removal.
Once the bulk of the items are salvaged things are not over. In addition to inventory and conservation, the next issue is security. Christine mentioned that the ease of information through the internet, smart phones, and the press increased risk of theft of items and perhaps more subsequent damage to the building. The emergency plan for Clandon Park includes a communication officer. Their duty is to be the point of up to date information regarding any changes, and updates during and immediately following an emergency. They are the point of contact with the press and the public.
Christine then shared a video diary she recorded during the aftermath of the fire. It included a school that was shut down for two days to help store some of the objects. The video diary is below.
Rescued from the ruins – a video diary of the salvage operation at Clandon Park
More issues occurred because of the many different salvage sites. A collections management system was created in a spreadsheet manner in order to determine the different levels of damage to each object within each salvage site. The building construction was damaged but intact, leaving a shell of a building. The damage was assessed with a 3D laser and the building’s structural stability was able to be evaluated. There were various other methods of surveying the damage, including a drone.
There were also the health hazards associated with the burning lead roof. The burning created about six feet of lead oxide dust and debris inside. The possible risk of mercury and asbestos poisoning was also present. Therefore, admittance had to be regulated and personnel properly outfitted in order to excavate the burnt layers to retrieve small finds.
The final part of the talk was in regards to the future of Clandon Park. It was stated that the General Director of the National Trust will rebuild Clandon Park, but to what degree. There have been instances with other National Trust properties on how they have handled such a large devastation. The options with how to handle Clandon park were to: demolish, maintain as a ruin, restore completely, reinvent for another purpose, or a use blended approach. The latter seems the most likely to occur.
To end her talk, Christine shared another video about the future of Clandon Park. The video can be seen below.
Clandon Park: The Future
Overall, it was intriguing and somber to see an emergency plan being utilized during such a destructive event. I enjoyed the fact that it was not a talk on the development of a plan in case of emergency, but rather the practice of it in the moment. Not only was this a learning experience for the National Trust and everyone involved in the process, I’m sure it meant a great deal to everyone who was present at Christine’s talk. If anyone else had the chance to visit Clandon before the fire, then you are aware of how such a startling loss this has been, not only for the local community, but for admirers around the world.  I am hopeful for Clandon Park’s future.
Further information:
Clandon Park at the National Trust
Our Work at Clandon Park