During the blizzard of 1922, the roof of the Knickerbocker Theatre in Washington, D.C. collapsed from the weight of the snow.

Unexpected emergencies can happen at any time, and it is equally important to have a plan for your archives as it is for your company overall. A natural disaster can damage a performance venue or close a production for an extended period. In addition to physical and financial damage, planning ahead can also protect human life.

There are a number of resources available to assist you in developing an emergency preparedness plan. ArtsReady is an online emergency preparedness service by and for arts/cultural nonprofits, providing arts organizations with customized business continuity plans for post-crisis sustainability. Performing Arts Readiness is an Andrew W. Mellon Foundation-funded project formed in the recognition that performing arts organizations are especially vulnerable to disasters and emergencies which can halt performances, sometimes indefinitely, and can put an organization out of business overnight. They offer grants and resources to performing arts organizations.

The U. S. National Archives offers a great deal of information on their website on preservation, along with specific information on emergency preparedness. Similarly, the Library of Congress also offers preservation information for the general public, along with recommendations on emergency preparedness including what to do if collections get wet, and how to reduce risk to other collections after damage has been done.


Print Resources:

Balloffet, Nelly, and Jenny Hille. Preservation and Conservation for Libraries and Archives. Chicago: American Library Association, 2005.

A 214-page manual on preservation and conservation best practices for library and archival materials including rehousing materials, setting up work-spaces, and compiling a disaster plan.


Ellis, Ellen, and New Zealand Theatre Archive. Caring for Your Theatre Archives. Wellington, NZ: New Zealand Theatre Archives, 2005. (Now available as an e-book)

A user-friendly guide to setting up an archives program, including information on collection, appraisal, records management, documentation, and preservation.


Haskins, Scott M. How to Save Your Stuff from a Disaster: Complete Instructions on How to Protect and Save Your Family History, Heirlooms and Collectibles. Santa Barbara, CA: Preservation Help Publications, 1996.

Easy to use manual for disaster management with illustrations on protecting a wide variety of materials.