Accession, Arrange, Take Action! Archivists and Climate Change

Across the world, on September 20th, 2019, people demanded action on climate change. Students abandoned their classrooms for the climate change cause—possibly the most human of all issues. We created the problem, we made it worse, and a generation is trying to make it better. We should all be trying to make it better.


Strike marches happened all over the world and demonstrated the collective power of humanity to unite. According to CBC, action was planned in more than 150 countries! By the end of the day, it was estimated that more than 4 million people took part worldwide.

Archivists Respond to Climate Change

As part of the global protests, archivists and archival educators organized parallel events as part of “Archivists Respond to Climate Change.”

You can find discussion, links, and resources on Twitter using #Archivists4ClimateAction.

Teach Ins were organized at many institutions as part of Project ARCC. “Throughout this day archivists will hold Teach Ins focused on various topics of archival practices and the archivist’s relationship to climate change.These Teach Ins will provide insights and serve as a launching point for future actions against climate change. By joining international efforts to raise awareness of climate change, archivists can join the global community to tell leaders across the world that we demand climate action.”

Project ARCC created teaching materials for the event including a facilitation guide and specific modules like “Borrowed Time – Letters to My Future Self” and “Archival Visions: Life After Climate Change” both created by Itza Carbajal. The modules include suggested readings and support resources and provide instructions on how to lead exercises with specific learning outcomes. Of particular note to those wanting to participate in this movement outside a classroom, “Letters to My Future Self” can be done as a self-reflexive individual project.

climate teach in poster
archives teach in poster 3
climate teach in poster 2

Question and Reflect

Throughout the day, ProjectARCC asked a series of questions as part of the Teach In on Twitter. The questions asked how archivists feel climate change will impact the work that they do, what role archivists should take, and how we should think about preservation in an uncertain future. But the discussion was also intersectional, touching on privilege, race, and inequality (e.g. this thread). This was a powerful reminder that climate change affects everyone but it does not affect everyone equally.

Get Informed, Start Panicking…then Take Action

If you would like to learn more, start (or continue) panicking, and get motivated, check out these articles, presentations, and other resources:

Dying Well in the Anthropocene by Samantha R. Winn

The Environmental Impact of Digital Preservation by Linda Tadic

Toward Environmentally Sustainable Digital Preservation by Keith Pendergrass, Walker Sampson, Tim Walsh, and Laura Alagna

Repository Data Project by Eira Tansey, Ben Goldman, Whitney Ray. Read more about the project here.

The Future of Our Pasts: Engaging Cultural Heritage in Climate Action by International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS)

Why is Green Preservation So Hard? by David S. H. Rosenthal

Sustainable Preservation Practices  and then check out this thread from @frannypak





I’ll leave the last words to the inimitable Greta Thunberg…



Cover Photo

Photo by Markus Spiske from Pexels