On November 16th, AFR Philadelphia participated in the first ever Tri-State Alliance Meet & Greet at the Princeton Theological Seminary in Princeton, New Jersey. The day long meeting brought together leaders of disaster networks located in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.
In the morning, we had the opportunity to hear short introductory presentations from area networks. The New Jersey Cultural Alliance for Response (NJCAR) began the morning, telling us about their “white light experience” following Hurricane Sandy, which inspired arts organizations to band together and form the alliance. Next, the Princeton Preservation Group let us know about the variety of preservation programs that they host, including many disaster topics, which have been becoming increasingly more popular in recent years. We also heard from the director of NJVOAD (Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster), who told us about that agency and VOADs in general, which work to connect the dots between various volunteer organizations providing relief and support during times of crisis.
The New York Capital Region AFR, a newer group, shared information about some of the disaster response and salvage training that it has been providing to the organizations in its four county region, and its partnership with the State Archives. Alliance for Response New York City, which has recently been pursuing an official 501(c)3 status, told us about their organization following Hurricane Sandy. Because of the identified need for more resources for cultural organizations following Sandy, AFR NYC has also been able to organize a 50 person city-wide response team, which has undergone extensive training in artifact salvage and disaster management.
Next, we heard more about Pennsylvania’s statewide network, the Pennsylvania Cultural Resilience Network (PaCRN). The network, which includes eight AFRs across the state and a statewide response team called the Pennsylvania Cultural Response Team (PaCRT), began in 2013 through an Institute of Museum and Library Services National Leadership grant. The Suburban Philadelphia Alliance for Response (SPAR), who we heard from next, was an AFR network that developed out of PaCRN. That group has been working closely with the Chester County Department of Emergency Services to improve response and preparedness in cultural institutions in the Philadelphia Suburbs. The morning session concluded with AFR Philly Steering Committee member, Kara Willig, who explained the history and future goals of AFR Philly.
In the afternoon, we participated in several breakout sessions to discuss specific topics. Those sessions included:
- How GIS Mapping can be used to better know the risks to cultural institutions in an area, and to help communicate with emergency managers;
- The training and network expansion grants that are currently being offered by the Performing Arts Readiness project, and how this program can be used to help our existing Tri-State networks;
- “Ask an Emergency Manager,” led by the Senior Deputy OEM Coordinator for the City of Burlington, NJ;
- Ideas for training sessions that can be done in Alliance for Response groups to help improve preparedness or disaster mitigation as well as salvage and disaster response; and
- How the National Alliance for Response program can help support existing networks.
Following a larger discussion about the lessons learned throughout the day, the group was then given a private tour of the beautiful Princeton Theological Seminary library and grounds. Some attendees broke into smaller groups for two after hours events: happy hour at a local bar or a tour of the Princeton University Museum of Art.
Photos from the event can be found on the Pennsylvania Cultural Response Team’s Facebook page.
AFR Philly looks forward to attending future Tri-State Alliance meetings and hearing more about how the groups develop.