Hatcher North

The Flood in Florence, 1966: A Fifty-Year Retrospective

Harlan Hatcher Graduate Library
913 S. University Ave.
Ann Arbor, MI

Thursday and Friday
3–4 November 2016

Nearly five decades have passed since the Arno River in Florence, Italy, flooded its banks on November 4, 1966, breaching the basements and first floors of museums, libraries, and private residences, and burying centuries of books, manuscripts, and works of art in muck and muddy water. The natural disaster of the Florence Flood galvanized a fledgling conservation community into action. In the intervening decades, successive generations of professionals have advanced the practice of conservation and preservation, imbuing the profession with a global view of the value of cultural heritage and fully embracing the technical details of materials science. The fields of library and archive preservation and conservation are committed to preventing future disasters while focusing on triage decision-making and cost-effective action in the face of continuing natural and human-made disasters.

Today, a flood of a different sort is sweeping across the land – a veritable deluge of digital data. Lessons learned from a half-century of conservation-treatment efforts could shed important light on the enduring values of the material world of books and works of art and help inform strategies for preservation in a digital environment.

The Flood in Florence, 1966: A Fifty-Year Retrospective symposium will focus on the transformative effects of this disaster on the preservation field, and in doing so examine the enduring lessons of a half-century of innovative materials research, professional practice, and education and training. The symposium will explore three deeply related aspects of preservation and conservation over the past fifty years: 1) the development of new knowledge through research and practice; 2) the cross-generational exchange of practice-based experimentation on care and treatment, ranging from salvage (triage), development of a phased approach to collections care, conservation of rare artifacts (treatment), and mitigation and prevention (security and environment); and 3) scholarship, synthesis, and knowledge transmission through formal and continuing education. The goals of the symposium are to deepen our understanding of advances in conservation practice and science, preservation strategies, and education and training, as well as crystalize the most important lessons of these advances for the care and handling of digital resources whose material nature may be every bit as tangible as their analog counterparts.

Accompanying the Symposium will be an exhibit about the steps that were taken in the first year following the Flood to mitigate the disaster to the collections at the Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze (National Library, Florence) by an international team of bookbinders, book restorators and technicians, and dozens of volunteers, the so-called Mud Angels. This dedicated group not only saved many thousands of books, but they were the first to recognize, and eventually implement, the need for the professional training of library conservators as well as disaster planning and phased conservation.

Setting the Context

  • Photographic Essay: John Comazzi (University of Minnesota): The Flood of Florence – The Photos of Balthazar Korab

  • Memoir: Sheila Waters (author: Waters Rising: Letters from Florence): Mass Treatments at the National Library after the Florence Flood: Peter Waters and the Origins of Library Conservation

Theme Panel: Development of New Knowledge Through Research and Practice

  • Speaker: Megan Holmes (University of Michigan): Consequences of the Flood on Works of Art – Connoisseurship and Conservation

  • Speaker: Don Etherington (ECS Conservation [emeritus]): Developments in the Treatment of Books and Paper

  • Panelists: Sherelyn Ogden (Minnesota Historical Society); Beth Doyle (Duke University); Julia Miller (author, Books Will Speak Plain: A Handbook for Identifying and Describing Historical Bindings)

Theme Panel: Science and Technology -- Strategies for Conservation and Preservation

  • Speaker: Jeanne Drewes (Library of Congress)

  • Panelists: Shannon Zachary (University of Michigan); Randy Silverman (University of Utah); Nancy E. Kraft (University of Iowa)

Theme Panel: Education for an Evolving Profession

  • Speaker: Ellen Cunningham-Kruppa, University of Texas at Austin

  • Panelists: John Dean (Cornell University [retired]); Cathleen A. Baker, (University of Michigan [retired]); Morgan Adams (Columbia University)

Closing Keynote

  • Michael Suarez (University of Virginia): Materiality and Meaning in a Digital World


The symposium is free and open to the public, but the number of participants we can accommodate is limited. Advance registration will be required. An online registration form and information about travel to and accommodations in Ann Arbor will be available in early September.  

In the mean time, we encourage you to RSVP to express your interest in attending the symposium.

Questions? Contact the Florence Flood Symposium Planning Committee

Page maintained by Martha O'Hara Conway
Last modified: 05/13/2016

Draw a Black Line Through It: On the Surveillance of Blackness

Situating blackness as an absented presence in the field of surveillance studies, Simone Browne questions how a realization of the conditions of blackness—the historical, the present, and the historical present— can help social theorists understand our contemporary conditions of surveillance.

Event Information

Date & Time
February 11, 2016 - 4:00pm to 5:30pm
Location
Hatcher Graduate Library, Gallery (Room 100)
Location Information
Event Type
Lecture

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Event Information

Date & Time
February 19, 2016 - 12:00pm to 1:30pm
Location
Hatcher Graduate Library, Gallery (Room 100)
Location Information
Event Type
Lecture

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Event Information

Date & Time
April 6, 2016 - 5:30pm to 7:00pm
Location
Hatcher Graduate Library, Gallery (Room 100)
Location Information
Series
The Author's Forum
Event Type
Panel Discussion

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Event Information

Date & Time
March 16, 2016 - 5:30pm to 7:00pm
Location
Hatcher Graduate Library, Gallery (Room 100)
Location Information
Series
The Author's Forum
Event Type
Panel Discussion

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Event Information

Date & Time
January 28, 2016 - 4:00pm to 5:30pm
Location
Hatcher Graduate Library, Gallery (Room 100)
Location Information
Series
The Author's Forum
Event Type
Panel Discussion

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Stephen Berrey, U-M assistant professor of American culture and history, talks with Angela Dillard, U-M Earl Lewis Collegiate Professor of Afroamerican and African Studies, about Berrey's recent book, The Jim Crow Routine: Everyday Performances of Race and the End of Segregation in Mississippi.

Event Information

Date & Time
February 9, 2016 - 5:30pm to 7:00pm
Location
Hatcher Graduate Library, Gallery (Room 100)
Location Information
Event Type
Panel Discussion

Science as Art

For the Science Learning Center (SLC) 2016 Science As Art Contest, students submitted artwork that expresses scientific principles, concepts, ideas, processes, and/or structures. The artwork may be visual, literary, musical, video or performance-based.

Event Information

Date & Time
February 5, 2016 - 2:00pm to 5:00pm
Location
Hatcher Graduate Library, Gallery (Room 100)
Location Information
Event Type
Exhibit Opening

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