TX-CERA stands ready to serve in case of future disasters, not only in their home state, but in other areas of the nation in need of help. Indeed, as recovery work continued in Texas, a TX-CERA representative made two trips to Puerto Rico in October and December 2017, to assist art museums, artists, and libraries with storm mitigation following Hurricane Maria. Today, there are still some institutions engaging in the long recovery work from disaster. TX-CERA’s first responder efforts put many on the path to recovery.
In surveying the challenges and success of actions taken by TX-CERA during Hurricane Harvey recovery—and in recognition of additional challenges in the coming years for cultural heritage resources along the Gulf Coast—the FAIC and TX-CERA were prompted to approach the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for support to increase the number of museum and library professionals trained to respond safely and professionally to future local and regional disasters. On October 25, 2017, The Mellon Foundation awarded $100,000 to the FAIC to support emergency training for staff in collecting institutions from three key at-risk cities nationwide: Houston, Miami, and Seattle. In Texas, the grant supported a program to train and establish a state response team of thirty-five collections professionals in collaboration with TX-CERA. The cost-free training program used a curriculum similar to that used to train FAIC’s National Heritage Responders (NHR), and was conducted using both hands-on instruction and distance learning. The selection of participants were made on a competitive basis. This new team, Texas Heritage Responders (THR), formed of volunteers from across the state, will not only be a ready resource for response at the state level but will also be available to supplement the NHR team members elsewhere, if need be. The THR group is attached to the Texas Emergency Management Assistance Team (TEMAT). This is the forward response and recovery team for the Texas Department of Public Safety. The program serves as a state resource with multi-disciplined, multi-talented, and highly qualified members. A TEMAT member is a subject matter expert with a mastery of all phases of their area of expertise. TEMAT is deployed under the direction of the Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM), as required to support local entities in the event of a catastrophic incident or event. The response teams are recruited from various disciplines at the local level, and coordinated with other state agencies. https://www.preparingtexas.org/Resources/documents/2017%20Conference/Texas%20Emergency%20Management%20Assitance%20Team%20(TEMAT).pdf
Additionally, TX-CERA is collaborating with the Houston Arts Alliance (HAA)—the city’s designated local arts and culture agency—in an effort to create and disseminate information through the Houston Area Arts and History Disaster Resilience Plan. Recognizing that the vast majority of artists, cultural practitioners, and arts and culture organizations are unprepared for the next sudden or historic disruption, the HAA secured funds to hire an experienced disaster planning professional and to create an advisory committee of cultural nonprofit leaders and artists, funders, and public-sector disaster professionals. In creating the plan, the working group sorted through the dozens of opportunities, needs, and questions that surfaced during the recovery period following Hurricane Harvey and assessed needs and paths forward to create disaster response elements, such as communication databases and vehicles; damages assessment systems; engagement with existing public and private disaster resources at the City of Houston, Harris County, and the region; ongoing training for nonprofits and individuals; and corps of expert disaster responders to help in recovery efforts. TX-CERA’s Steven Pine sits on the HAA’s advisory committee. TX-CERA also has been part of the planning process and agreed to be content experts during training workshops designed for artists and arts and history organizations. https://ready.haatx.com/
Through education and advocacy, TX-CERA strives to serve as a resource for cultural institutions in order to mitigate loss of cultural and heritage collections due to disaster. Hurricane Harvey and the resultant flooding in August 2017 was historic in nature. Key support from the National Endowment for the Humanities and its Chairman’s Emergency Grant program helped TX-CERA effectively respond to the crisis. Through their actions, TX-CERA was able to offer immediate help and advice to arts and cultural heritage organizations in need, and spread knowledge on mitigation and recovery efforts to both the community and their peers. The continued effort to create a master list of arts and cultural organizations in the Texas Gulf Coast region not only positively impacts hundreds of arts and heritage groups in the wake of Harvey, but also should be an invaluable tool to facilitate quicker response in case of future disasters. https://txcera.org/
Past posting of a successful Hurricane Harvey collaboration in Houston, 2017