The US, One Cultural Heritage Site at a Time

By Helena Clark, Columbia University

Through my work as a VSFS intern with SCRI, I have spent time gathering information on a wide variety of cultural heritage sites in an effort to prepare for possible disasters. Should a disaster occur, this information would be mobilized in order to account for damage and dispatch necessary aid to these institutions. This work will contribute to the work of HENTF (the Heritage Emergency National Task Force), which coordinates with FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) to address cultural heritage needs in times of disaster. This internship has in this way also demonstrated the ways in which alliances are formed among agencies, particularly at the federal level to carry out these types of tasks. Throughout my internship, we have been fortunate in a sense not to have witnessed any disasters that fall into our jurisdiction as SCRI interns. As such, our efforts have gone towards preparing as much information as possible to be ready should a disaster strike either during our internship or in the years to come. This work has given me an appreciation for how rich and vulnerable our cultural heritage is. Culture feels omnipresent, but I have come to realize how much work goes into its constant preservation. It’s gratifying to play a small part in an extremely large effort to protect something so dear as cultural heritage. It’s also rewarding to know that even if we do not directly see the results of our work helping people, someday if a need arises, provisions will be in place to act based on our work.

Combing through information regarding museums, libraries, and art galleries from across the US has expanded my appreciation for the great diversity of culture across the country, as well as for the efforts of those who uphold these sites. As an anthropology student, the dedication taken by so many in maintaining the cultural heritage of their communities has truly resonated with me throughout my work with SCRI.


Our work has included collecting data from all corners of the US, from the biggest cities to the smallest towns.