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The Flood in Florence, 1966

The Flood in Florence, 1966: A Fifty-Year Retrospective, University Library of Michigan

Nearly five decades have passed since the Arno River in Florence, Italy, flooded its banks on November 4, 1966, breaching the basements and first floors of museums, libraries, and private residences, and burying centuries of books, manuscripts, and works of art in muck and muddy water. The natural disaster of the Florence Flood galvanized a fledgling conservation community into action. In the intervening decades, successive generations of professionals have advanced the practice of conservation and preservation, imbuing the profession with a global view of the value of cultural heritage and fully embracing the technical details of materials science. The fields of library and archive preservation and conservation are committed to preventing future disasters while focusing on triage decision-making and cost-effective action in the face of continuing natural and human-made disasters.

Today, a flood of a different sort is sweeping across the land – a veritable deluge of digital data. Lessons learned from a half-century of conservation-treatment efforts could shed important light on the enduring values of the material world of books and works of art and help inform strategies for preservation in a digital environment.

The Flood in Florence, 1966: A Fifty-Year Retrospective symposium will focus on the transformative effects of this disaster on the preservation field, and in doing so examine the enduring lessons of a half-century of innovative materials research, professional practice, and education and training. The symposium will explore three deeply related aspects of preservation and conservation over the past fifty years: 1) the development of new knowledge through research and practice; 2) the cross-generational exchange of practice-based experimentation on care and treatment, ranging from salvage (triage), development of a phased approach to collections care, conservation of rare artifacts (treatment), and mitigation and prevention (security and environment); and 3) scholarship, synthesis, and knowledge transmission through formal and continuing education. The goals of the symposium are to deepen our understanding of advances in conservation practice and science, preservation strategies, and education and training, as well as to crystalize the most important lessons of these advances for the care and handling of digital resources.

Registration for the symposium is required. While there is no cost to attend, the number of participants we can accommodate is limited.

Accompanying the symposium are a film screening and an exhibit, both of which are free and open to the public.

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