Laudato si’ and archives.

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On 8 June 2016,  I attended a seminar at the Loyola Institute, TCD, Dublin entitled ‘Caring for our Common Home; Towards an Integrated Perspective on Society and the Environment’. Marking the anniversary of the publication of Laudato si’, the social and environmental encyclical letter from Pope Francis, speakers opined that it has empowered their work; it is a game-changer. I confess that before last week, I hadn’t read a word of it. Encyclical letters don’t tend to be top of my reading list. On flicking through Laudato si’, the section on Cultural Ecology caught my eye.

Ecology, then, also involves protecting the cultural treasures of humanity in the broadest  sense. More specifically, it calls for greater attention to local cultures when studying  environmental problems, favouring a dialogue between scientific-technical language and the language of the people. Culture is more than what we have inherited from the past; it is also, and above all, a living, dynamic and participatory present reality, which cannot be excluded as we rethink the relationship between human beings and the environment.

How does this relate to archives?

The June 2016 issue of ARC magazine (Archives & Records Association, UK & Ireland) contains an article by Mandy Garratt, ‘Preserving archives in a more sustainable way’. She investigates whether it is feasible for partial shutdowns of environmental control systems in archives for short time-periods, but still maintaining suitable preservation conditions (she references the work of Tim Padfield, Image Permanence and International Institute for Conservation).

Secondly, ProjectARCC: Archivists Responding to Climate Change is a task force (based in the US) of archivists striving to motivate the archival community to affect climate change. They ‘believe that archivists, those responsible for the preservation of history for future generations, should be as passionate and concerned about preserving a habitable and safe planet for future generations.’ In 2017, there is a Colloquium at New York University entitled ‘Libraries and Archives in the Anthropocene’. The colloquium seeks to explore the realities of environmental change and libraries and archives reaction to it.

It should not have been necessary but Laudato si’ has made me rethink my relationship with the environment. First steps at the archives:

  • reduce energy consumption – test whether a shutdown of climate control systems (it consists of a dehumidifier and air conditioning unit running 24/7) overnight and at weekends is feasible, without negative preservation consequences.
  • reconsider travel plans to conferences abroad etc…I do learn more when face-to-face however technology should counteract the tyranny of distance.