What Is Museum SOS

Richard Gould
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Bringing Order out of Chaos: The Curator's Role

Richard Gould
Brown University, Department of Anthropology


Nothing is more chaotic than the scene following a major disaster, and any museum can fall victim on its own or as part of a larger event. The realities of the post-9/11 world require special responses from curators to safeguard and salvage their collections. These include: 1. advance training and networking with law-enforcement and emergency-services authorities, 2. special awareness of procedures in HAZMAT, evidence collection and chain-of-custody, and the Incident Command System (ICS, which is our national emergency disaster plan), and 3. knowledge of health and safety issues that affect on-site activities. All of these issues arise in the often prolonged and difficult aftermath to a disaster, which is when curatorial skills and expertise are most needed. The realities of this important work, especially in the field recovery of specimens, may be harsh. In other words, it isn't for everyone. The question is: Is it for you? and, Are you up to it?



"Picking up the pieces: A Brown archaeologist is using the methods of his profession to bring closure to the families of disaster victims. Can archaeologists serve scholarship, police work, and the bereaved at the same time?"

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