Campus Life

UWF archivist teaches emergency management for historical artifacts

Most people are familiar with the need for a plan in the event of a weather emergency. But what happens to sensitive archives and rare artifacts when severe weather or natural disasters strike?

John C. Pace Library Archivist Dean DeBolt at the University of West Florida has been approved as a mentor in the Connecting to Collections Emergency Management Plan, a statewide training initiative.

These workshops will focus on ways to keep important documents and collections safe during natural disasters, while also establishing a network of individuals with knowledge of how to respond to these situations.

DeBolt said that research libraries, historical societies, archives and the like often contain unique materials.

“These can be one-of-a-kind diaries, letters, rare books and other materials that, if lost, are simply irreplaceable,” he said. “Here at UWF, our collections begin with written materials as early as 1420… these materials would be destroyed by water, which dissolves ink, high humidity, fire and other natural disasters.”

Although hurricanes and tropical storms are the biggest threat to the area, DeBolt said there are others threats, as well.

“Other area dangers are tornadoes, possible rising water and flooding, a possible rise of coastline water due to climate change, and of course, West Florida sits on an earthquake zone,” he said.

Because local residents often wish to protect their treasured items like personal photographs, family memorabilia and home videos when faced with a disaster, DeBolt said the University Archives and West Florida History Center’s paper preservation lab routinely offers assistance with restoration and preservation.

The first Emergency Management Plan workshop will be April 24 in Tallahassee. Other workshops in Florida are August 7 and October 24, both of which will be in Pensacola. These presentations will also be webcast throughout the state.

For more information, visit the library archives website at