After quakes: Alexander Turnbull Library two years after the Kaikoura earthquake

2018-11-11T19:43:17Z (GMT) by Ruth Oliver
Preprint from New Zealand Conservators of Cultural Materials 2018 Conference.

The National Library NZ Wellington building, that also houses the Alexander Turnbull Library, came through the 2016 Kaikoura earthquake very well. The magnitude 7.8 earthquake struck around midnight so the building posed no immediate danger to library staff. No library staff entered the building until authorised by structural engineers. At first assessment the recovery teams found that collections had fared well. Furniture and fittings in collection stores also appeared largely intact although there were pockets of disruption or damage.
The initial response proceeded; managers planned and communicated, there were safety briefings, collection care teams commenced setting collection stores to rights. A building close by was re-inspected and thought to be in danger of collapsing; the National Library building was placed within the hastily erected safety cordon. A week later this cordon was relaxed and staff returned to the National Library building. Storage spaces remained off limits due to safety concerns and expert advice was sought. Only a few weeks later the library building was re-opened to the public but it was three months before all collections were accessible again. This was due to questions relating to the seismic resilience of shelving and other fittings in another major seismic event.
Many other pertinent questions will be discussed in this paper: What lessons had been taken on board following the Canterbury earthquakes and the Seddon earthquake? How did seismic mitigation work fare once business as usual resumed? What was learnt from the Library building’s specific situation? How were decisions made? What were the priorities? What actions have been taken? What actions are still to be taken?
In the months and years that have followed the earthquake the library has been on a journey navigating, prioritising and acting on decisions. A huge amount of time, energy and learning has gone completing seismic interventions in the collection stores of the Alexander Turnbull Library. We would like to share this information in the hope that it will be helpful to others working in the Galleries, Libraries, Archives and Museums (GLAM) sector.