New Disaster Recovery Case Study By Kara Van Malssen

May 2, 2013

AVPreserve Senior Consultant Kara Van Malssen has just published a new case study on the recovery of the Eyebeam Art+Technology Center collection post hurricane Sandy in October of last year. Almost the entire collection of video and file-based artworks and documentation was submerged in three feet of brackish, contaminated water during the storm, putting it at high risk of corrosion and irrecoverability if the items were not properly cleaned and dried within a few days. After Eyebeam put out a call for help, Kara, AVPreserve President Chris Lacinak, and Anthology Film Archive Archivist Erik Piil came in to perform triage, make a recovery plan, and help lead a volunteer team to implement the plan and stabilize the collection for future preservation.

Kara’s paper looks at the impact of the flood on the media items and lays out the plan and equipment used. Especially useful is pointing out the various pitfalls and tips of a recovery effort in a disaster zone: the difficulty in gathering supplies, contacting and organizing volunteers, maintaining consistent and easily communicated workflows to inexperienced or constantly changing volunteers, and acting quick and decisively while still keeping in mind safety of people and care for the materials.

In the weeks following the storm disaster preparedness was on everyone’s mind, well aware that after the second year in a row with a hurricane in New York we should start expecting it to happen again. But with time that mindset fades and we sink back to old modes. Besides imparting practical advice on how to run a disaster recovery effort, Kara’s paper should be a reminder that the best way to do that is to be prepared with a plan in place so that it does not take such an extraordinary effort. We were lucky to have such an outpouring of volunteer effort and resources semi-readily available, but that won’t always be the case in disaster zones.

Visit our Papers & Presentations page to download Kara’s paper (and other resources!) or go directly to the PDF of Recovering the Collection, Establishing the Archive. Also see Eyebeam Fellow Jonathan Minard’s video on the effort:

Recovering Eyebeam’s Archive from DEEPSPEED media on Vimeo.

— Joshua Ranger