Resilient Museum Design: Planning for the Unknown

It won’t surprise you that 2017 was a record year for billion dollar disasters. From hurricanes in Florida, Texas and Puerto Rico, to wild fires in California along with the impacts from tornadoes, hail and drought, these events added up to a whopping $306 billion, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. 2017’s totals exceeded even 2005, the year Hurricane Katrina struck. While 2005 may have previously seemed like an outlier, an anomaly, it is now part of the clear upward trend in severe storm occurrences caused by a changing climate.

One of a museum’s primary goals is to preserve and protect their collection. To fulfill that role, it is critical to consider the role of climate change, as well as the risks of security threats, infrastructure issues, possibilities of pollution, and pests. To help museum clients identify, evaluate and plan for the risks, HGA has developed a Resilience Planning Tool that was based on a process developed by Kaiser Permanente. Through a resilience planning workshop session, we have been able to help clients determine where to focus resources to have the biggest impact in risk reduction.

We recently had such a session with the Goldstein Museum of Design at the University of Minnesota. The workshop included museum Director Lin Nelson-Mayson, several staff members from the museum and Facilities Department, and participants from the U of MN Department of Emergency Management and U of MN Department of Police.

The Resilience Assessment Tool evaluated and ranked Level of Concern, Severity of Impact and Level of Preparedness from low, medium and high for the following risks:

  • Climate
  • Natural Disaster
  • Infrastructure
  • Security
  • Local Pollution
  • Other

The Resilience Assessment Tool can be customized at any scale—from stand-alone museums to organizations housed within an existing academic building, such as the Goldstein housed within McNeal Hall and the College of Design on the University’s St. Paul campus. Nelson-Mayson noted that results from the workshop have proven particularly useful as they update their existing Disaster Plan, which was last completed nearly 15 years ago.

“The workshop was an opportunity to look at ourselves in a neutral way and identify risks we may not have fully considered before,” Nelson-Mayson said. “Although many elements are already included in our Disaster Plan, other risks have changed over the years, such as cyber security as more data is stored digitally or building infrastructure that may have aged.”

She also noted that the workshop helped strengthen communications with a broader campus network that included the Emergency Management, Police, and Facilities Department.

“By including a broader spectrum of relevant participants in the planning process, we gained deeper insight into assessing potential risks and solutions,” Nelson-Mayson said. “The Resilience Assessment Tool is a valuable resource as we move forward with our updated Disaster Plan.”

Roxanne Nelson, Ariane Laxo and Lin Nelson-Mayson highlighted the Goldstein Museum of Design in “Resilient Design: Planning for the Unknown” at Building Museums 2018, March 10.