In early August, I spent a week as part of California Rare Book School’s course on Archives and Climate Change. The course was held virtually, on East coast time, with a break for lunch. I’ve never attended traditional rare book school, in California or elsewhere, so I don’t have a comparison, but I found the virtual component worked fine and in some cases great – it’s much easier to be sent to a breakout room than it is to break into groups in a physical space! I did miss being able to chat more outside of the class, but a lot of discussion time was built in so relationships were still developed.

The course instructor, archivist Eira Tansey, has devoted much research to the intersection of archives and climate change, so I expected to be in good hands – and I was proven right! There were 13 students, ranging from graduate students to seasoned archives professionals. Each day, we had a number of resources to read or explore in advance, and the course syllabus which Eira has posted online was extensive; I will probably spend a year going through all the resources she recommends. Each day’s subject was as follows:

  • Climate change 101: We discussed the science of climate change. What’s being monitored, and what are the changes being seen and experienced?
  • Climate change emotions: We discussed our earliest climate memories, and the concrete actions we can take in pursuit of a less extractive world. If you knew you could not fail, what would you most want to do for the healing of our world?
  • Climate visualization and mapping: We learned about sources for climate (map) data and archival repository location data (collected by Tansey and collaborator Ben Goldman), explored working with ArcGIS StoryMaps, and had a guest lecture from archivist and PhD student Itza Carbajal about working with kids, storytelling, and climate.
  • Short-term challenges for archives changing climates: Climate will affect collections and buildings, staff and users (medical issues, transportation/safe housing, knowledge). How can we begin to adapt our practices and procedures now?
  • Long-term challenges for archives in changing climates: We discussed building construction and adaptation and current challenges to the archives profession that will continue to grow, and got a preview of Tansey’s upcoming book on a Green New Deal for Archives (which she has also presented on).

To close the week, we all shared something: our StoryMaps project, our future plans for climate work, or just – closing thoughts on our readings and week together. It was a touching, beautiful, instructive week and I can’t really convey what it meant to me to gather in conversation with this group.

The syllabus is available online but I will also share my favorite readings (there were so many – and so many still to explore!):

I’m open to talk more about climate and its interaction with our lives, our work and practices, our decisions, etc. In the meantime I’ll be going through this course syllabus 🙂