MayDay 2013

May Day 2013: Saving our Archives

May Day 2013: Saving our Archives

MayDay (May 1), to archivists, is a time to reflect and take action on what we need to do to save the materials in our collection. In December 2005, the Heritage Health Index released a report entitled A Public Trust at Risk: The Heritage Health Index Report on the State of America’s Collections, which noted that “few institutions have disaster plans and for those that do, often the plan is out of date.”

From the Basic Emergency Procedures that the Society of American Archivists created:

“MayDay (May 1) is the one day each year on which the entire archives profession is encouraged to focus attention on emergency preparedness so that it doesn’t constantly take second place to more pressing demands. MayDay is not about public awareness. Rather, it is a call for everyone working with cultural materials to take personal and professional responsibility for emergency preparedness. Some activities can be done individually. Others require institutional coordination, but those institutional efforts need someone – everyone – to promote institutional participation.”

The main idea is to choose something that you can complete in one day. Some of the ideas on the site include:

  • Create or update your emergency contact list
  • Review or establish basic emergency procedures (The Society of American Archivists has provided this sample in rich text format.)
  • Conduct a disaster drill
  • Conduct scenario exercises
  • Invite local firefighters to visit your repository
  • Survey the building for risks
  • Make sure all collections are in boxes
  • Make sure all boxes are off the floor
  • Identify the most critical, essential, important records
  • Inventory emergency supplies
  • Review your emergency preparedness plan

The Society of American Archivists encourages everyone to participate, and you could even extend this to the records in your own house. Even if you don’t finish working on your disaster preparedness plan, at least get a good start on May 1. If you participate in MayDay activities, please contact SAA at to let them know what you are doing and how you are observing the day. Here at The Westminster Schools, we will be updating our emergency contact list and reviewing our emergency procedures.

MayDay Partners

Addendum: If you are in the Atlanta, Georgia, area, you can attend the free workshop “May Day: Disaster plans and lessons learned from short and long term recovery” on May 1 from 2-4 pm at Lyrasis on 1438 West Peachtree Street. To learn more about the Heritage Emergency Response Alliance-Atlanta, visit:


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