How Climate Change will affect Museums: a book about Indoor Risks

Managing Indoor Climate Risks in Museums – Bart Ankersmit • Marc H.L. Stappers – Springer

Climate change, presumably, will affect the way buildings will be designed and managed. Also museums are challenged by such risk and a new kind of approach needs to be studied.

Among the wealth of websites and papers that the internet web allows to read about the climate change issue, Managing Indoor Climate Risks in Museums has the gift of explaining the big picture and, at the same time, giving practical tips to the many professionals that need to be supported in studying and applying real-world solution to a new problem.

The volume authored by Bart Ankersmit – Senior Scientist at the Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage – and with Marc H.L. Stappers, (Netherlands Institute for Cultural Heritage), is the translation and expansion of the original Dutch Climate guidelines  – Klimaatwerk –published in 2009 and it is divided into eleven sections, with a clear structure. Nine chapters explain in detail each of the the nine-steps procedure that the Authors suggest to everyone committed to improving museums capability of protecting their content (and the buildings themselves) against the damages that climate change is causing to the material cultural heritage.

The Introduction gives some interesting information about the history of of climate control inside museums. In the “Nine steps” section of the “Introduction” chapter we’ve found an interesting period explaining the scope of the book: The goal of this publication is to assist collection managers and stakeholders by providing a decision making model, with background information that will help responsible decisions about the museum’s indoor climate to be made. The focus is not only on the outcome, but also on the equally important process that leads to that outcome.  Obviously, the same section introduces to the procedure suggested and to the meaning of each step.

The nine sections of the book are aimed at explaining the single steps of the process:

Step 1: Towards a Balanced Decision

Step 2: Valuing Heritage Assets

Step 3: Assessing the Climate Risks to the Moveable Collection

Step 4: Assessing Building Needs

Step 5: Assessing Building Needs

Step 6: Understanding the Indoor Climate

Step7: Defining Climate Specification

Step 8: Mitigating Strategies

Step 9: Weighing Alternative

The last chapter (Conclusions and Recommendations) gathers all the informations and considerations provided in the previous chapters, adding some more important considerations.

Why the book can interest people involved in improving safety of museums (and of cultural heritage in general)?

We think that Step 8 (chapter 9) deserves to be read by the fire safety community because they can find many suggestions that affect fire risk assessment. Architectural engineering, secondary glazing,  insulation of building envelopes, the  use of buffering materials have direct or indirect relations with fire safety of buildings. The application of the fire safety engineering to buildings fire risk assessment process needs to take into account how a building behave when a fire occurs. So, the problem of insulating the building envelope or designing a climate control system, has to be weighted also under the fire safety strategy, as the ISO 23932-1:2018 and the other standards of the “Fire Safety Engineering” clearly state.

In conclusion, after the large number of words about general statements about the risks to cultural heritage due to climate change, there’s a urgent need of practical books about what to do on buildings and artifacts, both during the risk assessment phase and in the designing of the protective measures. We think we need more books like the Bart Ankersmit and Marc H.L. Stappers effort.

STORM Academy 2019: a Course on Cultural Heritage Protection and Climate Change

In three weeks, between January and February 2019, the EU financed STORM (Safeguarding Cultural Heritage through Technical and Organisational Resources Management) project has organised the STORM Academy 2019. The lessons will be held in Rome – National Fire Academy (I.S.A.) and in Viterbo (Tuscia University) by teachers selected among of the partners of the project.

The STORM Academy is aimed at training professional figures or students, by the implementation of both onsite training activities and lessons. The added value of the Academy is the interdisciplinarity between the different fields, and the cooperation between different areas of knowledge involved in the Cultural Heritage conservation and management. The provided training is the direct consequence of the achievements gained during three years of research project and test in the five project’s pilot sites.

The lectures of the course will explore the relations between climatic change and risk for Cultural Heritage, the technologies available to predict hazardous events and limit damages and the operational procedures in case of emergency. Part of the lessons will be based on the use of the innovative platform developed and provided within the STORM project.

Lessons will deal with the main topics of the project:

  • The STORM project and protection of CH: state of the art and goals
  • Principles and main practices adopted for prevention, quick assessment, recovery
  • Observed and predicted climate change in Europe
  • The Baths of Diocletian, a complex site: history, characteristics, conservation problems – The Storm Project at Baths of Diocletian: motivations and solutions
  • Identification of gaps in CH policies and future approaches to improve regulations
  • Methodology and use of knowledge coupled with the STORM platform.
  • Protection of cultural buildings and sites from vegetation fires
  • A toolkit for supporting CH users during the prevention and intervention process
    Exercise – Terme di Diocleziano
  • Earthquake damages: shoring procedures in emergencies scenarios
  • Gathering and sharing data in emergency between rescue services and cultural heritage protection bodies
  • Introduction on integrated platform and its benefit – Description of sensors used in STORM
  • Development of integrated structural health monitoring and earthquake risks management systems for historical structures: the STORM approach
  • Protection measures on CH against environmental agents. FBG sensors, installation, data collection and data analysis
  • Integrated approach to vulnerability and risk assessment for cultural heritage sites
  • Collect a field oriented view of cost-effective approach and compare it with Storm project achievements
  • Improving risk control decision making: Cost-effectiveness analyses of heritage conservation interventions.
  • How to get further research, site sustainability and business opportunities out of a resilient policy for cultural sites.
  • Climate change impact: From current practices and legislation towards an appropriate management response through monitoring and risk assessment
  • Ongoing archeological studies, conservation and protection works in the Ephesus  site .
  • Methodology and use of knowledge coupled with the STORM platform
    Disaster Risk Management at the Roman Ruins of Troia. The experience provided by STORM.
  • Water and environment agents damages protecting procedures in emergency
  • How to get further research, site sustainability and business opportunities out of a resilient policy for cultural sites.
  • The impact of weather events, augmented by climate change, on cultural heritage, monitoring and management: A UK perspective
  • Managing cultural heritage sites to cope with slow onset climate change problems
  • Non-destructive technologies for Cultural Heritage: the STORM approach for damage assessment
  • A toolkit for supporting CH users during the prevention and intervention process
  • EYCH and other future EU initiative in the field of CH

For more information: STORM website

The European Forum for Distaster Risk Reduction addresses Cultural Heritage: Resilience and Risk Reduction

The European Forum for Disaster Risk Reduction (EFDRR) forms the regional platform structure of Europe of the UNISDR, the U.N.  Office for Disaster Risk Reduction.  The 2018 meeting, of the Forum has been held in Rome on November 21-23.
The two days meeting has been organised within the 2015-2020 European Roadmap for the implementation of the Sendai Framework. The Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction 2015-2030 is the new 15-year agreement to manage disaster risk adopted at the Third UN World Conference for Disaster Risk Reduction endorsed by the UN General Assembly through Resolution 69/283. The Sendai Framework is innovative for its clear shift from managing disasters to managing risks.
The agenda of the Forum, among others, has addressed the topic “reducing risk to cultural heritage”.  In particular, two sessions have dealt with the problem of Cultural Heritage:


The ResCult project
The session has hosted the final conference of the ResCult project (“Increasing resilience of cultural heritage: a supporting decision tool for the safeguarding of cultural assets”), which has been  devoted to “enhance the capability of Emergency Management Authorities and Operators to prevent and mitigate natural hazard impacts on cultural heritage”.
The project key outcome is the European Interoperable Database (EID), an on-line tool designed to provide a unique framework for different stakeholders (Civil Protection, Firefighters, Cultural Heritage Owners, Policy and Decision Makers and more) to support disaster risk reduction strategies planning and implementation.
Components of the European Interoperable System (EID)
Reducing risk to cultural heritage – Organizing team leaders: Corila, Italy and United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
Cultural heritage is a unique, irreplaceable and unfortunately, vulnerable resource. We must plan how best to reduce the risks to the heritage in our care, and then act on those plans. This is in the limelight of 2018 being the European Year of Cultural Heritage. Tangible and intangible heritage alongside traditional knowledge are key to this mission. There has been a multitude of events, case- studies and texts that provide for a rich and diverse knowledge base for action.
Two strands can be identified: cultural heritage as an “end” or a “means”. Where the “end” relates to heritage as the object to be safeguarded, it is the ‘means’ that underlines the Council of Europe approach in the context of the 2005 Faro Convention on the Value of Cultural Heritage for Society.
For the “means” there are two important issues related to prevention, relief and recovery.
1. Acknowledgment by all citizens of their cultural heritage assets (including local traditions and history) and community participation stressing the local identities and needs in the mapping process as an act of prevention and means to ensure fast recovery.
2. Ensuring the inclusive approach through participation and engagement of these groups in the community-based planning and programming processes where their needs, priorities and response are taken into account.
This is crucial for the recovery of the collective community spirit and for encouraging solidarity and resilience in future actions. Consequently, cultural heritage plays its role of bringing communities together. These two strands can be summarized as the Culture of Resilience and the Resilience of
Culture. The panel session will invite five experts to debate on a few major topics regarding risk reduction to cultural heritage and the direction of future actions:
1. enhanced preparedness, improved coordination and response;
2. capacity-building, education and awareness raising;
3. disaster risk management;
4. economic recovery and the need for an accountable and systematic evaluation of economic losses;
5. promoting innovation related to emerging technologies able to support decision-makers.
An interesting description of the sessions from Thomson Reuters Foundation’s Alex Whiting can be found here.

Europe is ready for climate impact. The EU Commission evaluates its strategy, but what about Cultural Heritage protection?

Europe is ready for climate impacts: Commission evaluates its strategy. From:

On November 12th, 2018, the European Commission has posted on its website some information about  a report (Europe is ready for climate impacts: Commission evaluates its strategy) on lessons learned and reflections on improvements for future action with regard to the impacts of climate change on economic sectors of EU regions.

Losses in the EU countries due to climate change. From: Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council on the implementation of the EU Strategy on adaptation to climate change

Cultural legacy all over the world can be considered a beacon that draws millions of people every year to  archaeological sites, churches, castles, monuments, museums, etc.  So, the protection and conservation of Cultural Heritage shoul be a priority for any policy makers, since Cultural Heritage is a known value with effects in other economic sectors.

Cultural Heritage is a wealth creator that boosts economic impact and tourism-related business opportunities, on which many cities and communities depend.

On the other hand, heritage assets are dramatically exposed to climate change and natural hazards, which threaten their integrity and may compromise their value. The loss or deterioration of these unique assets would negatively affect local and national communities, due to their cultural importance as a source of information on the past and a symbol of identity, as well as for their socio-economic value.

While the problem of protecting and preserving Cultural Heritage is considered one of the key issues in modern societies, the webpage of the Commission does not address explicitly the issue of its protection against the damages due to of climate change. The  documents downloadble from the webpage do not contain specific references to the issue as well.

Hopefully, in the report that has been sent to the European Parliament and to the Council of the EU, there’s already some reference to the protection strategy of such a pivotal aspect of the European Union.

The EU funded in the recent years researches on the specific topic. In 2019  will end two EU projects which deal with the very same problem, financed in 2015 under the Horizon 2020 program:

  • HERACLES:  Heritage resilience against Climate events on site
  • STORM:  Safeguarding Cultural Heritage through Technical and Organisational Resources Management

In the following years, few projects concerning the protection of Cultural Heritage against climate change risks seem to have been funded. A 2017 call has been issued on “Resilience and sustainable reconstruction of historic areas to cope with climate change and hazard events”.

The hope is that also the last calls of the Horizon 2020 research and innovation program of the European Commission will keep high the interest in the preservation of Cultural Heritage against natural and man made risks. Limiting damages in the long term to such an important and vulnerable part of the local and communities communities should be a common goal of the next policies in the specific sector of Cultural Heritage protection.

An ongoing effort in identifying innovative solutions to enhance capabilities in improving existing processes related to prevention, intervention and planning is necessary .

Emergency Evacuation of Heritage Collections: an ICCROM-UNESCO handbook



Emergency Evacuation of Heritage Collections (ICCROM-UNESCO) – Handbook cover.

Protecting Cultural Heritage is  mainly aimed at avoiding that any kind of  hazard could pose an excessive  risk to the objects that must be preserved. There are conditions, nonetheless, that oblige to evacuate the artefacts, since the preventive measures cannot be anymore effective.  So, in specific situations, museums and their staff may  go through challenging times due both to natural disasters and climate change.

In the case of museums, when they  are threatened for their role in protecting and valorizing precious witnesses of the past and human creativity, their intrinsic value for intercultural dialogue and mutual understanding  must be protected and supported.

UNESCO and ICCROM have published in English and in Arabic an handbook about the protection of Cultural Heritage objects during conflicts. Such activity  is challenging and can be life threatening.

The handbook provides step-by-step guidance for evacuating cultural collections under extreme conditions. It is aimed at assisting people and  institutions,which try to prevent the destruction and looting of cultural objects during a crisis situation. It can be used also to train others and to improve emergency preparedness at cultural sites. According the document, the Egyptian Heritage Rescue Foundation (EHRF), a Cairo based non-governmental organisation, has performed the field-testing of the workflow.

Emergency Evacuation of Heritage Collections (ICCROM-UNESCO) – Document, Pack and move infographic.

The handbook deals the evacuation of cultural heritage objects, how to do it, which workflow adopt, how to assess the threat and other important aspects of  preparedness and management of emergency evacuations. Obviously, the handbook cannot give instructions on the prioritisation in removing objects, since such activity is strongly related to a complex  assessment depending of many different considerations but it has the merit of drawing attention to this passage of emergency procedures and providing some basic information.

The document can be downloaded from the ICCROM website or here:

ICCROM-UNESCO Emergency Evacuation of Cultural Heritage of Handbook

Fire risks and new threats from climate change to libraries and archives

Key observed and projected climate change and impacts for the main regions in Europe from: Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe. Source: EEA Report 2012

According to the document published in 2012 by the European Environment Agency  (EEA), Europe will experience over the next few decades some effects caused by climate change. The expected changes are not uniform throughout the mainland, but they can be summarised in a number of homogeneous areas. Table 1 illustrates the qualitative trends provided in seven climatic regions.

With regard to fire prevention, in addition to the obvious problem of the increased risk caused by the increase in average temperatures, it may be interesting to analyse which might be the effects of these changes on the measures taken to protect the content of libraries and historical and artistic value archives against the risks derived by the new cheater conditions. Unlike digital archives, in fact, these fire protection features are conditioned by the presence of materials subject to attack from insects and microorganisms. So, the measures taken to limit the damage caused by insects and microorganisms could raise some fire protection issues. To explain the relationship between the risk of proliferation of dangerous insects for the paper, may be useful to start from the identification of the change expected in Europe. Official publications indicate that diversified mechanism depending on the weather areas will affect each region. In particular, in the European continent seven different mechanisms of change can be identified, but one of the most common aspects appears to be the increase of average temperatures and the simultaneous increase of the rainfall. The document of the Piemonte region (Italy) on the state of the environment in 2016 [2] which relates to the impact of climate change on cultural heritage, noted that “The main heritage degradation factors are of a physical nature chemical and biological”:

  • Temperature (T): day / night variations, seasonal. Thermal stress and the freeze / thaw cycles cause damage to the porous building materials (marble, plaster, bricks …);
  • Atmospheric Water: rain precipitation, relative humidity (RH%). Water is the most critical parameter as it acts, either directly or indirectly, in most of the degradation processes both physical and chemical and biological: heavy rains can provoke a mechanical erosion action of the surfaces; the water dissolves and conveys soluble salts within the recrystallizing materials that, as a result of ambient relative humidity variations, cause breakage and damage; high humidity conditions favor the proliferation of biological attacks (mold, bacteria, mosses …);
  • Winds: the particles transported by the winds exert mechanical erosion action on the surfaces, they may also be deposited by creating coatings of surface deposit. The winds convey water and soluble salts (marine aerosols carrying sodium chloride) potentially harmful even in areas protected from the direct action of rain;
  • Biological growths: both the archaeological sites located in rural areas, and the monuments and buildings in urban areas may be colonized by plants, animals and microorganisms such as bacteria, fungi, algae, lichens. The formation of coatings on surfaces in addition to the strong aesthetic impact induces a constitutive biodeterioration of materials which can lead to partial or total loss of the work itself. Of course, the proliferation of biodeteriorigeni is a phenomenon closely related to climate and environmental factors;
  • Atmospheric pollutants: carbon dioxide (CO2), sulfur compounds (SOx), nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PM2.5, PM10), ozone (O3) contribute to the degradation of the assets, especially in an urban environment, through different mechanisms of alteration. The pH of rains acid promotes the dissolution of stone materials with carbonate matrix, the sulfur dioxide is the main cause of sulfation processes that lead to the formation of black crusts transforming the calcium carbonate chalk (more soluble and easily washed out by rainwater ) and affecting bronzes (oxidation of the surfaces of the monuments with copper idrossisolfati formation, its characteristic green color); the atmospheric particulate matter is deposited on the surfaces creating unsightly black crusts, coatings and transporting of organic pollutants which are adsorbed and can interact with the constituent materials of the works”.

Given these premises, any design solutions (for archives and libraries) have to be addressed in the light of eco-sustainability, it may be interesting to mention the criteria, that the reference [3] summarises in the following points:

  • A highly insulated envelope
  • Effective solar shading Which uses natural elements such as trees and roof overhangs as well as by shading louvers run by photovoltaic cells.
  • A low rate of natural air infiltration
  • An exposed concrete internal construction, Which Retains the heat,
  • An efficient low-pressure mechanical ventilation system
  • An electrically powered heat pump for heating via the air and thermostically controlled perimeter radiators. During the summer, it cools the building, making Further refrigerating and air conditioning unnecessary.
  • Excess energy can be exported to adjacent buildings
  • The energy is 100% renewable
  • Compact fluorescent lighting, occupancy sensors and sun-shading devices are Also used to improve energy efficiency.

These criteria indicate  the need to eliminate the ventilation openings of the storage rooms of libraries (in order to lower outside air infiltration volumes). Some of fire prevention rules recommend permanent ventilation openings in archives, to limit the damages due to combustion products and make it easier extinguishing operations. So, the need to limit damages due to the insects and microorganisms due to the increase of temperature and ambient humidity, brings to  eliminate the ventilation  permanent openings requested by some fire prevention standards.

Both problems (protection against fire and from attacks of insects and microorganisms) may find an answer in adopting automatic systems. So, the final consideration highligths the criticality of this type of solution, that implies high levels of reliability. Currently, there are no standards dealing with the reliability of the systems governing fire safety of cultural heritage and this lack may be considered a gap to be filled.

[1] Füssel, H.-M., & Jol, A. (2012). Climate change, impacts and vulnerability in Europe 2012. Copenhagen. Retrieved from

[2] Relazione sullo stato dell’ambiente Piemonte 2016. (2016). Retrieved April 17, 2017, from

[3] Ebunuwele, G. E. (2015). Global Warming : Implication for Library and Information Professionals. International Journal of Humanities and Social Science, 5(6), 69–77.

STORM: an Horizon 2020 research project on heritage and environmental changes


STORM (Safeguarding Cultural Heritage through Technical and Organisational Resources Management) is a EU research and development project funded in the early 2016 by the EU under the Horizon 2020 program (Call: DRS-11-2015: Disaster Resilience & Climate Change, Topic 3: Mitigating the impacts of climate change and natural hazards on Cultural Heritage sites, structures and artefacts).

STORM will study the impact of climate changes on cultural heritage and the mitigation strategies of their effects on the buildings and artefacts.

The project will be carried out by a multidisciplinary team providing all competences needed to assure the implementation of a functional and effective solution to support all the actors involved in the management and preservation of Cultural Heritage sites.An important result of STORM will be a cooperation platform for collaboratively collecting and enhancing knowledge, processes and methodologies on sustainable and effective safeguarding and management of European Cultural Heritage. The system will be capable of performing risk assessment on natural hazards taking into account environmental and anthropogenic risks, and of using Complex Events processing. Results will be tested in relevant case studies in five different countries: Italy, Greece, UK, Portugal and Turkey. The sites and consortium have been carefully selected so as to adequately represent the rich European Cultural Heritage, while associate partners that can assist with liaisons and links to other stakeholders and European sites are also included.

Starting from previous research experiences and tangible outcomes, STORM proposes a set of novel predictive models and improved non-invasive and non-destructive methods of survey and diagnosis, for effective prediction of environmental changes and for revealing threats and conditions that could damage cultural heritage sites. Moreover, STORM will determine how different vulnerable materials, structures and buildings are affected by different extreme weather events together with risks associated to climatic conditions or natural hazards, offering improved, effective adaptation and mitigation strategies, systems and technologies. An integrated system featuring novel sensors (intra fluorescent and wireless acoustic sensors), legacy systems, state of the art platforms (including LiDAR and UAVs), as well as crowdsourcing techniques will be implemented, offering applications and services over an open cloud infrastructure. An important result of STORM will be a cooperation platform for collaboratively collecting and enhancing knowledge, processes and methodologies on sustainable and effective safeguarding and management of European Cultural Heritage. The system will be capable of performing risk assessment on natural hazards taking into account environmental and anthropogenic risks, and of using Complex Events processing. Results will be tested in relevant case studies in five different countries: Italy, Greece, UK, Portugal and Turkey. The sites and consortium have been carefully selected so as to adequately represent the rich European Cultural Heritage, while associate partners that can assist with liaisons and links to other stakeholders and European sites are also included. The project will be carried out by a multidisciplinary team providing all competences needed to assure the implementation of a functional and effective solution to support all the actors involved in the management and preservation of Cultural Heritage sites (from the STORM project website).

One of the main results of the first year of the project has been the course on preparedness and first aid to Cultural Heritage “STORM 2017  Summer School“, held in Rome on 11 to 13 September 2017. The course has been conceived as a test of the 2018 edition.

Preparedness and First Aid to Cultural Heritage in the STORM Summer School