Northern Arizona Cultural Heritage Preservation Initiative Unites Organizations in Case of Disaster

Northern Arizona organizations are coming together to preserve artifacts in case of a disaster thanks to the ‘Northern Arizona Cultural Heritage Preservation Initiative’.

The initiative includes Cline Library at Northern Arizona University, the Museum of Northern Arizona, the Arizona Historical Society Pioneer Museum, Lowell Observatory and Flagstaff Public Library as well as other historians, librarians, and archivists.

According to the Arizona Daily Sun, the group has been meeting quarterly discuss disaster support partnerships in case of emergency.

“We recognize here at Cline Library that we, as well as all our cultural heritage partners in the region, are isolated geographically from assistance should a disaster occur. We would need to rely on each other,” said Jill Friedmann, associate dean of Cline Library, and initiative coordinator.

Cline Library already has a partnership with the Arizona Historical Society. Some of their material was stored in the library during the wildfires in Flagstaff in August.

“Our main threat is and has always been wildfires,” said Bill Peterson, vice president of collections and education for the society. “In the event of a wildfire, we have a contingency plan. We’ve just never had a formal agreement (with these organizations) on how that would look or what they would be.”

The initiative was initiated by Peter Runge, head of Cline Library’s Special Collections and Archives, which stores artifacts from Northern Arizona University, Flagstaff and the rest of the Colorado Plateau region. He got the idea, because he used to work at University of California, which partnered with other CSU’s to share resources in the event of a disaster.

The goal is to expand the initiative and integrate other cultural holders from elsewhere in the region, including Native American organizations. Some have already become involved.

A formal agreement is used for record keeping purposes when items are temporarily loaned to other locations.

Each organization has a prioritized list of items to save in case of disaster. Merging with other organizations will help protect a multitude of Arizona’s most precious artifacts and material.

Irreplaceable items at the Cline Library include handwritten ledgers from the Babbitt Brother Trading Company and invoices from the Arizona Lumber and Timber Company. Many of these yellow, aging papers dating back to the 1850’s.

In a disaster, Runge said he would choose to save the sketches of Mary Colter, the architect who designed the Grand Canyon’s Bright Angel Lodge.

Irreplaceable items at the Pioneer Museum include Kolb Brothers’ movie cameras and the body of Josephine the mountain lion, the mascot of the Arizona Rough Riders.

Irreplaceable items from the Lowell Observatory include letters from Albert Einstein, 50,000 photographic plates of sky photos and paper documents from past astronomers and employees.

“Each of us can do our own little thing, but together we can share resources,” observatory archivist and librarian Lauren Amundson said. “It gives a sense of security knowing that you’re not doing this alone.”

These organizations are aware just how important a state’s history is and this initiative ensures that they are doing their best to preserve Arizona’s past.