After the Storm: A Fundraiser for Puerto Rican Cultural Heritage Collections

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Dear friends and colleagues, 

In September of 2017, two storms hit Puerto Rico in quick succession, devastating the archipelago’s infrastructure. The second, Hurricane Maria, made landfall with winds of 155 miles per hour, bringing with it rains that flooded coastal areas 9 feet above ground level. The entire electrical grid failed; as a result communications and clean drinking water were impaired throughout the island. The magnitude of the damage to cultural heritage institutions is difficult to overstate. Some institutions lost everything, and others are still displaced as the recovery process slowly grinds away. In addition to the unprecedented scale of the destruction, recovery efforts have been further hobbled by Puerto Rico’s ongoing financial crisis and the reluctance of the federal government to extend sufficient aid.

In the weeks following the storm, members of ART and the New York chapter of ARLIS began discussions on how our local communities could assist recovery efforts on the ground in Puerto Rico. New York is fortunate to have outstanding cultural collections relating to Puerto Rico and the diaspora; and, indeed, cultural institutions such as the Center for Puerto Rican Studies at Hunter College, el Museo del Barrio, and others have already been vital advocates of the recovery efforts on many fronts. Given the unique historical connection between New York and Puerto Rico, and the critical importance of libraries and archives to the cultural record, we felt it was imperative for our communities to respond.

Our primary objective is to have a meaningful impact in aiding cultural heritage collections in need. To this end, we gathered information and advice from local organizations, grant programs, and conservation experts who have volunteered in affected areas regarding ongoing needs. After much discussion, we recognized that the way to have the greatest impact for collections across Puerto Rico is to empower cultural stewards with the knowledge they need to prepare for and respond to these storms in the future. 

The project has a very concrete aim: to create Spanish-language programming and instructional materials on preservation, disaster response and recovery, and grant writing that will be freely available to all cultural heritage collections on the archipelago regardless of size or locality. To this end, we are partnering with the Puerto Rican archivists consortium La Red de Archivos de Puerto Rico (ArchiRED) to create instructional materials that are responsive to the local climate and context. All of the materials created through this effort will be hosted on ArchiRED’s website for cultural stewards to access as they have need. 

To further this endeavor, ART has launched a fundraising campaign that is being shared with archivists and librarians throughout New York City. Our goal is a modest $5,000 to cover the cost of creating and hosting webinars and other instructional materials. If each active ARLIS/NY and ART member donates only $10 we will more than reach our goal. All funds beyond those needed for the instructional materials will be administered as small grants to local organizations by ArchiRED. 

We hope that you will join us in coming together around this effort!

Many thanks from the Program Committee:

Amye McCarther
Director of Programming, and the Board of Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York

Heather Topcik
Past-Chair, and the Executive Board of Art Libraries Society of North American/New York

Hilda Teresa Ayala-González
Coordinator of Archival Advice, and the Board of Directors, La Red de Archivos de Puerto Rico (ArchiRED)

Pedro Juan Hernández
Senior Archivist, Center for Puerto Rican Studies, Hunter College

Coral Salomón
Digital Strategies Librarian, Fisher Fine Arts Library, University of Pennsylvania

Barbara Calderón
Art Librarian, School of Visual Arts Library

The Archivists Round Table of Metropolitan New York, Inc. (ART) is a not-for-profit organization representing a diverse group of more than 400 archivists, librarians and records managers in New York metropolitan area. Your gift is very much appreciated and tax deductible as a charitable contribution to the fullest extent allowed by law. A copy of ART’s latest financial report may be obtained by writing to ART, P.O. Box 151, New York, NY 10274-0151. New York residents may obtain a copy of ART’s annual report by writing to the Office of the Attorney General, Department of Law, Charities Bureau, 28 Liberty Street, 15th Floor, New York, NY 10005.

Photo: Cristobal Guerra, from the series Rio Blanco/Playa Sucia, 2017. Courtesy the artist. © Cristobal Guerra