Old book

Old newspapers, photos, and documents are kept for decades – even centuries – in historical archives. Some are large institutions. But others are small libraries or historical societies, and they may struggle to protect their collections as the climate changes.

Eira Tansey of the University of Cincinnati co-authored a study that found that almost 99% of archives face at least one climate-related threat.

Tansey: “For most of them, it will be changes in temperature and humidity. But we also found that there would be some impact, particularly to coastal archives by increased storm surge during hurricane events, or in some cases, sea-level rise.”

Digital copies can preserve some records, even if the originals are lost. And archivists can move priceless collections if extreme weather is expected. But it takes time and money.

Tansey: “And so you have the situation where larger, more well-resourced institutions can withstand the impacts of climate change more readily than small local community archives.”

She says local archives, though small, may hold legal documents or records of a community’s history, so protecting them is critical.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

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