Climate Change Resources for Archivists


Global warming presents an increasingly severe threat to archives, libraries, and museums. This evolving list is designed to help archivists and related professionals understand how climate change events may affect archives, libraries, and museums. 


Visit RAAC’s Disaster Planning and Response Resources and our Go-To list for tools that can help you prepare.


Background on Climate Change and Us


Anthropocene Librarianship

Miskatonic University Press’ (aka William Denton’s) blog post provides a full explanation of anthropocene librarianship, which it defines as “the active response librarians make to the causes and effects of climate change so severe humans are creating a new geological epoch.” The post discusses the many ways that librarians (read archivists) are practicing anthropocene librarianship and offers an interesting look at how the topic of climate change is reflected in the Library and Information Science Abstracts bibliographic database--not very thoroughly, as it turns out. 


Project ARCC Climate Change Syllabus

The Project ARCC (Archivists Responding to Climate Change) syllabus offers background on the issues involved in climate change. Farther down on the page, you’ll find citations for articles that directly address how climate change may affect archives. Unfortunately, few of these are available for free online.  


Archives, Libraries, and Museums and Climate Change


Archival Adaptation to Climate Change

Eira Tansey of the University of Cincinnati, a Project ARCC member, discusses the dearth of literature about the impact of climate change on archives and calls on archivists to “consider how values of sustainability and resiliency might inform archival practice.”


Are National Trust Libraries At Risk From Climate Change?

The UK’s National Trust is taking a hard look at how climate change may affect its historic libraries. Insect infestation and mold are two of the potential problems mentioned. 


Climate Change and the Historic Environment 

This report by May Cassar of the Centre for Sustainable Heritage at the University College of London presents the results of a study conducted with stakeholders at English Heritage sites. It focuses on threats posed by climatic factors such as rising temperatures, increasing or decreasing precipitation, and high winds, and offers recommendations on advisable future actions.


Conservation Physics-Index

Tim Padfield, a conservation expert based in Denmark, compiled this “compendium of articles on preventive conservation and building physics applied to historic materials and structures.” There are many useful links here, including some recommendations on low-energy/passive heating and cooling of archives and museums, which will become ever more crucial as temperatures continue to fluctuate. 


Global Warming: Implications for Libraries and Information Professionals

This article from the International Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences focuses on libraries in Nigeria but contains information about energy conservation and practical suggestions to achieve efficiency that may be applicable to all such institutions.


Libraries and Climate Change: The Dangerous Destruction of Information We May Need To Know To Survive

The destruction of textual materials that have been digitized has been a subject of archivists’ anguish for years now, and what happened in Canada is outlined in this blog post from the Noticing New York blog. 


Planners Hope to Open NY Climate Change Museum in 2020

Reuters reported on this proposed museum in December 2015. The planners got the idea after seeing the devastation of Hurricane Sandy. It would join existing climate change museums in Hong Kong and Germany.


Widespread Flooding May Threaten Records

Records Express, the blog of the National Archives chief records officer, offers links for disaster planning and dealing with emergency situations.



Collections of Use to Researchers Studying Climate Change


Old Weather

Old Weather, a Zooniverse site from the National Maritime Museum in Greenwich, England, utilizes Arctic ships’ logs to track changes in climate over time in an effort to predict future weather patterns.  It has transcribed more than 3 million weather observations through crowdsourcing.


National Snow and Ice Data Center

The name is self-explanatory. But not only does the NSIDC help scientists study Arctic climate, it also has turned its computer room into a Green Data Center that uses 90 percent less energy than traditional air conditioning. 


International Environmental Data Rescue Organization 

IEDRO recovers climate data on at-risk textual records and those on endangered media by digitizing them and creating free, open research databases. 


Guide to the Records of the Library Flood

Although it wasn’t linked to climate change, in 1997 the Morgan Library at Colorado State University suffered a devastating flood following heavy rains. And like any good archives, the Special Collections department created a collection around it. 


911 Calls from the Flood of ’97

The Red River Valley Flood of 1997 devastated Fargo, North Dakota. University of North Dakota Special Collections archived and digitized 911 calls from those affected by the flood as well as media members and law enforcement officials. The department also has a finding aid for the 1997 Red River Valley Flood Collection


The A List: The CDP Climate Performance Leadership Index

This annual list reports on corporations worldwide that have made commitments toward reducing greenhouse gas emissions.  


Environmental Science and Public Policy Archives 

This collection at Harvard’s Widener Library includes many related to climate change.


William P. Elliott papers on carbon dioxide and climate change 

Covering the years 1975-1996, at the American Institute of Physics in College Park, Maryland.


Health Co-Benefits of Carbon Standards for Existing Power Plants 

Harvard Professor Joel Schwartz studies the effects of climate change on human health. He co-authored this three-part study that analyzes the impact of different policy options for power plant carbon standards on clean air and public health.   



Grant-funded projects

These institutions received IMLS grants to study a topic related to climate change. Perhaps your institution may be interested in doing something similar.  


Rochester Institute of Technology (Image Permanence Institute)

In 2009 the IPI won a grant to investigate how libraries can achieve significant reductions in energy use without compromising the preservation quality of collection environments by shutting down  air handling units during unoccupied hours. Global warming was one of the reasons they cited for the need to increase energy conservation. 


Climate change and plants: predicting and planning

The Missouri Botanical Garden received an IMLS grant to investigate the effect of climate change on plants.