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HURRICANE HUGO: PUERTO RICO, THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, AND SOUTH CAROLINA 15 Damage to Cultural Property Norbert S. Baer, Conservation Center, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University Jane Slate Siena, The Getty Conservation Institute, Marina del Rey, California INTRODUCTION Even though all disasters may be expected to affect artifacts and structures of artistic and historic significance, some, for example the great Florence flood (1966) and the Friuli earthquake (1976), occur in regions of great cultural significance with widespread, irreplaceable losses. Selected recent disasters in which significant cultural property was damaged or destroyed are listed in Table 15-1. Though it recognizes that its primary objectives must continue to be the protection of human life and the reduction of economic losses in natural disasters, the natural, hazards community has proved most sympathetic to the concerns of those charged with the preservation of cultural property. The CND has appointed a conservation scientist to its membership as an expression of that concern. Although such links to the community of architects, civil and cultural authorities, engineers, scientists, and urban planners are essential to the conservation community, the ultimate responsibility for the preservation of cultural property lies with its custodians. What follows represents the first attempt to include cultural resources as an aspect of a CND report. CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA Reports of extensive damage to Charleston, one of the most architecturally important historic cities in the United States, yielded a rapid response from the National Trust for Historic Preservation, the U.S. National Park Service, the American Institute of Architects, and several local historic preservation organizations, in particular the Historic Charleston Foundation and Preservation Society of Charleston. Charleston, South Carolina, has among its historic structures 41 National Historic Landmarks, 112 items on the National Register, and 9 National Register
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HURRICANE HUGO: PUERTO RICO, THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, AND SOUTH CAROLINA TABLE 15-1 Selected Disasters Affecting Cultural Property 1968-1988. * Location Year Disaster Collections Lost/Damaged Injury/Loss of Life Corning Museum of Glass (U.S.) 1972 Flood Extensive damage to collections none Friuti Region (Italy) 1976 Earthquake Large-scale damage to historic structures 929 Johnstown Flood Museum (U.S.) 1977 Flood Severe damage to museum and collections — Montenegro (Yugoslavia) 1979 Earthquake Many historic buildings damaged 156 Huntington Library and Art Gallery (U.S.) 1985 Fire 1 major painting lost; extensive smoke damage none Mexico City (Mexico) 1985 Earthquake 95 mural paintings damaged 10,000 deaths Hampton Court Palace (U.K.) 1986 Fire Paintings; architectural structures damaged 1 death Kew/Southern England (U.K.) 1987 Windstorm 15 million trees lost 13 deaths National Academy of Sciences Library (U.S.S.R.) 1988 Fire 400,000 books destroyed, 3.6 million water-damaged none Yellowstone National Park (U.S.) 1988 Wildfire 1.1 million (50%) acres burned none * Compiled from various sources. Historic Districts, with a total of approximately 3,700 National Register Properties and about 7,266 Historic Properties. It is estimated that between 4,000 and 5,000 historic buildings in South Carolina were damaged by the storm, with 80 to 90 percent of all buildings in Charleston suffering some storm damage. In addition to the immediate storm impact caused by wind damage, intense rain, and tidal surge, the rainstorm that followed several days later caused severe water damage, gaining entrance through the wind-damaged roofs. Damage to porches and porticos was common, as was loss of chimneys and architectural details. Many of the more subtle forms of damage —as horizontal cracks in chimneys, shear cracks in masonry walls, mechanical and fungal damage to plaster, and salt attack on masonry —are just beginning to appear. In Charleston's Old City and the Old Historic District 50 houses collapsed, and in Charleston City as a whole the National Park Service survey sample of 120 historic structures found two-thirds had suffered damages exceeding $10,000. Significant damage was reported for the City Hall (1801, destroyed roof and major interior damage), Market Hall (1841, roof damage), Hibernian Hall (1840, roof damage), and St. Michael 's Episcopal Church (1751-1761, structural damage), among many others. The repair estimates are in excess of $10 million for category 1 (National Historic Landmark Buildings) and $150 million to $200 million for lesser historic buildings.
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HURRICANE HUGO: PUERTO RICO, THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, AND SOUTH CAROLINA Response A community's cultural property is as diverse as its history, traditions, and people. Property of artistic or historic value may include museum collections, libraries and archives, historic architecture, monuments, historic sites and parks, and natural resources such as botanical gardens and arboreta. Conserving and protecting the cultural property and resources of a given community requires the expertise of a variety of professionals and specialists, ranging from museum conservators to historic house craftsmen, from book conservators to archaeologists. Further, the required experts are often not available locally. In the case of the communities affected by Hurricane Hugo, outside experts in architectural conservation, museum conservation, and archaeology were called upon for emergency assessments of damage. The success of outside experts is directly related to the community's ability to provide organization and coordination for these diverse groups. The experience of Charleston serves as a model project in this regard. The mayor immediately centralized the response effort in the cultural fields so that the necessary evaluations and work could proceed in a timely and effective manner. A great many organizations mobilized to provide emergency assistance and funding for the repair of damaged historic property. After an initial period in which permit requirements were suspended to facilitate repairs, the mayor revised this order to require the adherence to accepted standards for historic structures. In particular, the Historic Charleston Foundation issued an advisory on September 27, 1989, to property owners advising them of their obligations to comply with city orders: 4. Architectural Review Board Approval is required for any proposed changes to a building that are visible from the street in the Old and Historic District and the Old City District. (Historic Charleston Foundation, 1989) The Historic Charleston Foundation issued “Registration Procedures for Building Contractors and Materials Supplies ” and distributed “Emergency Stabilization and Conservation Measures,” a four-page set of guidelines prepared by the National Park Service. Post-storm assessments were evaluated by a Coalition Task Force comprising preservation organizations in Charleston. A database of assessment reports was established, as was the Historic Charleston Preservation Disaster Fund. Students from Clemson, Roger Williams College (Rhode Island), and the Universities of Florida and South Carolina assisted with building assessments. The National Trust established a Hurricane Hugo Crisis Fund. Among the experts working in Charleston were representatives from the U.S. National Park Service who, by collaborating effectively with the local authorities
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HURRICANE HUGO: PUERTO RICO, THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, AND SOUTH CAROLINA through the Historic Charleston Foundation, managed to design, organize, and conduct emergency assessments of damage to historic structures throughout the city. This task provided immediate documentation on damage to historic property, and was important to the effort to establish priorities for the disaster response. Most of this activity focused on Charleston, but many historic structures in other areas impacted by Hugo have received far less attention. Libraries, Archives, and Museums The potential damage to library and archive collections as a result of hurricanes is a major concern to librarians, archivists, and conservators. Perhaps the most dramatic example of such a loss was the extensive damage at the Corning Museum of Glass (New York) caused by flooding associated with Hurricane Agnes, June 22 to 23, 1972 (Martin, 1977). Water damage to the contents of buildings is the obvious consequence of roof and other structural losses to buildings. Attempts to save books and paper that suffer water damage often involve “freeze-drying ” procedures, which require the use of power sources that may or may not be available in the aftermath of a disaster. In the case of South Carolina, preparations for the hurricane were undertaken by a regional network of professionals who evacuated materials and followed the existing guidelines of their disaster plans with some success. Other libraries, however, suffered losses because of either a lack of planning and resources, or their vulnerable locations. The Poe branch of the Charleston County Library system, located on Sullivans Island, lost most of its collection of 10,000 books. Additional losses were reported in other branches from water surges. The largest branch in the system, West Ashley, lost approximately 10,000 of its 50,000 books through the rupture of a main sewer line. No severe damage to museum collections was reported as a result of Hurricane Hugo. However, immediate professional conservation attention was required on selected paintings and decorative art objects throughout the storm path. Of the museums in South Carolina, the Confederate Museum in Charleston suffered the greatest structural damage to its building and subsequent water damage to its collections. Medium-to long-term damage to art objects, whether housed in museums or historic houses, is related to water damage and environmental conditions. Much of that damage will be associated with mold, mildew, and fungal attack in the warm, humid summer season. Landscaping Trees and shrubs form an important part of the setting for historic structures. Windstorms can be devastating to such landscaping and to botanical collections. For example, the losses sustained to the important botanical collections at Kew (U.K.)
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HURRICANE HUGO: PUERTO RICO, THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, AND SOUTH CAROLINA after the great windstorm of 1987 cannot be replaced. Although the debate has been considerable, centering on the quality of storm predictions, it is difficult to imagine what measures might have been taken to protect aged trees against wind gusts of 82 knots (94 mph). However, consideration should be given to the preservation of landscaping in the lifeline restoration process. RECOMMENDATIONS The CND should include an appropriate specialist (archivist, conservator, preservation architect, etc.) on its response teams when significant cultural properties are impacted. FEMA should include among its cooperating agencies representatives from those branches of the National Park Service concerned with historic properties. FEMA should establish links with the state historic preservation officers (SHPOs). Methods for emergency repairs and stabilization of historic architecture affected by natural disasters should be made available in readily accessible form for private owners of historic properties. A set of guidelines should be published outlining measures to reduce the damage to landscaping in emergency road clearance and operations to repair lifelines. FEMA, perhaps in coordination with such private agencies as the National Trust, American Institute for Conservation, Association for Preservation Technology, and Getty Conservation Institute, should establish a register of specialists in the conservation and preservation of cultural property to assist local architects, librarians, and curators in times of local disaster. The appropriate disaster planning agency should be advised of the existence of this register as part of its preparedness planning. EPILOGUE The devastation caused to historic properties in Charleston, South Carolina, and other mainland locations obscured the damage done earlier by Hurricane Hugo in the Caribbean. In Puerto Rico, damage was sustained by historic, prehistoric, cultural, and natural resources. As observed in a report prepared for the National Trust, Preservation of Puerto Rico's historic resources is faced with many new threats as a direct result of Hugo. Sites and buildings which remain vulnerable need to be stabilized, technical assistance needs to be brought to the areas most in need, technical and educational symposia must be
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HURRICANE HUGO: PUERTO RICO, THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, AND SOUTH CAROLINA organized and time sensitive research projects on hurricane effects on historic materials and systems must be researched while the data remain accessible (Bierce, 1989) Similarly, reporting on the Virgin Islands, Gjessing and Tyson (1989) noted damage to approximately 50 percent of the territory's historic structures and sites. While fewer than 2 percent were destroyed, major damage was sustained by 20 percent, including prehistoric and plantation sites. Damage varied significantly among the islands, with injury to 78 percent of the historic resources on St. Croix. It is estimated that repairs in excess of $50 million will be required for historic properties in the U.S. Virgin Islands.
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HURRICANE HUGO: PUERTO RICO, THE U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS, AND SOUTH CAROLINA REFERENCES Abbey Newsletter. 1989. Hurricane Hugo puts disaster plans to test. Abbey Newsletter 13(7): 113-114. Bierce, C. R. 1989. In Search of Hurricane Hugo: An Assessment of Hurricane Damages to Historic Resources in the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. Draft Report prepared for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Washington, D.C. Chapman, W. 1989. The Impact of Hurricane Hugo on the Historic Resources of South Carolina and North Carolina. Draft Report prepared for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Washington, D.C. Feilden, B. M. 1982. Conservation of Historic Buildings. London: Butterworth. Feilden, B. M. 1987. Between Two Earthquakes: Cultural Properties in Seismic Zones. Rome, Italy and Marina Del Rey, California: ICCROM and the Getty Conservation Institute. Gjessing, F. C., and G. F. Tyson. 1989. Report on Hurricane Hugo's Impact on Historic Resources in the United States Virgin Islands, with Recommendations for Preservation Archives. Draft Report prepared for the National Trust for Historic Preservation, Washington, D.C. Historic Charleston Foundation. 1989. Property Owners Obligations to Complying with City Ordinances. Emergency Stabilization and Preservative Services, Media Advisory, September 27, 1989. Howie, F., ed. 1987. Safety in Museums and Galleries. London: Butterworth. Jones, B. G. ed. 1986. Protecting Historic Architecture and Museum Collections from Natural Disasters. Stoneham, Massachusetts: Butterworth. Martin, J. H., ed. 1977. The Corning Flood: Museum Under Water. Corning, New York: The Corning Glass Museum. NRC. 1987. Confronting Natural Disasters: An International Decade for Natural Hazard Reduction. Advisory Committee on the International Decade for Natural Hazard Reduction, National Research Council. Washington, D.C.: National Academy Press.
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