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Virtual Emergency Response Training for BC Collections

It may not come as much of a surprise, but there has been quite a bit of discussion of late in the arts and culture community around emergency planning and response. We in our institutions are now all madly updating our emergency plans to include content on pandemics—something that I would have thought of as absurd if it was suggested to me six months ago. It’s just one more example of how much has changed in the time of COVID-19. Ironically, this has all come at a rather opportune time for the Steering Group of the British Columbia Heritage Emergency Response Network (BC HERN).

BC HERN is a growing network of cultural institutions who have committed to support each other, in whatever ways possible, to recover collections after an emergency. The support might look different depending on the type of emergency and where the institution is: trained responders might come, supplies might be sent, or it could be a calm voice on the phone walking you through the first steps of recovery.

BC HERN schematic workflow for emergency salvage of art and archival collections. Design by Cody Rocko.

The success of all of these different supports is dependent on having people trained in emergency response and collections salvage. BC HERN provides this training through workshops, and now most recently through a series of webinars that were delivered via the British Columbia Museums Association (BCMA). The three webinars walk  participants through a typical response scenario according to the major response areas:

1) triage,
2) object tracking,
3) space planning,
4) support, pack and move,
5) stabilize and buy time,
6) treat, rehouse or discard,
7) and the return to the museum.

The series is a good basic introduction to the topic for new or non-conservators or conservators looking for a refresher. The three BC HERN webinars are available for view on the BCMA website and the third in the series, “Emergency Salvage of Art and Archival Collections,” with Tara Fraser, Head Conservator of the Vancouver Art Gallery, can be found below:

Until we are all able to come together again for in-person, hands-on learning, the BC HERN 2020 workshop series will be in a holding pattern, but while we wait, the group will be working on alternate ways to engage!

For more info about the BC HERN, please contact Heidi Swierenga at