Report on the Conference on Cooperation over Archival Disaster Management held in Cologne (29th/30th April 2019).

In Germany, there is also a German Archives’ Day. This takes place every second year at the beginning of March (but not this year). The date coincides with that of the collapse of the Municipal Archives of Cologne on 3rd March 2009 and reminds us of the relevance of professional disaster management.‎ Since then, many archives have improved their disaster management and established cooperation with other archives, libraries, museums and agencies for emergency management. Representatives of these forms of cooperation in Germany meet regularly.

Copyright: Janer Sinica/Deutsches Tanzarchiv Köln

This year, the meeting took place in Cologne – ten years after the disaster that struck the City Archives of Cologne. The conference was mainly organized by the City Archives.

The original title was “Weimar – Köln – Rio”, but Paris had to be added after the fire at Notre-Dame. The conference not only focused on such large-scale and well-known disasters, but also on major collaboration between different organizations, agencies and experts from different disciplines, which is crucial for efficient and effective disaster management. This also includes all everyday measures to avoid damage to cultural heritage.

Copyright: Janer Sinica/Deutsches Tanzarchiv Köln

The process starts with knowledge exchange and understanding of the expertise and perspectives of each partner in the collaboration process. For example, firemen have to learn to take care of objects that constitute cultural heritage, because, even though they may not be people whose lives require saving, they are more than just “things” or “objects”. And archivists must realize that, in disaster situations, there is no time for discussion, but that clear rules and orders are needed for a quick and well-organized response.

The conference in Cologne represented a growing and learning community: The first meetings of this kind were workshops of about 20 colleagues, who exchanged details of early experiences e.g. about emergency exercises. This year‘s meeting was a conference with about 100 participants, some even from other countries, all gathered to listen to high level talks. To see the programme, go to:

They represent a growing network for preserving cultural heritage.

By Bettina Joergens, State Archives of North-Rhine-Westphalia, Duisburg