Keeping History Above Water 2017: Day 2

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Conference Recap

By Carlo Urmy, NRF-US/ICOMOS Graduate Fellow

Day two of Keeping History Above Water: Annapolis saw improved weather in Annapolis and a full slate of speakers from a variety of disciplines. After welcoming remarks, Dr. William Sweet of NOAA gave the first keynote of the day, describing the current state of climate change science, and emphasizing the wide range of scenarios possible over the 21st century. This idea would recur throughout the day: that the exact amount of future sea level rise will vary according to future emissions and rates of ice shelf collapse, as well as local factors.

One emerging theme on the second day of the program was the inseparability of natural and cultural heritage. Presentations by Emily Button Kambic and Kathryn G. Smith of the National Park Service highlighted how understanding environmental history can help park managers protect and interpret resources in light of climate change. Dr. David Guggenheim, president of Ocean Doctor Inc., used Cuba as an example of how preservation and environmental stewardship can reinforce one another and help mitigate some of the harmful effects of mass tourism.

Another important theme was communication and engagement. Marcus Moench, founder of the Institute for Social and Environmental Transition, spoke about how art projects can reach different people and get them thinking about climate change adaption. Jeff Goodell spoke again, and gave tips on how to connect with reporters and help them tell stories about climate change. Later in the day, Bradley Dean of Michael Baker International gave a presentation of Annapolis’ story map, an interactive, online tool highlighting the city’s Weather it Together initiative.

Two exciting presentations looked at different engineering solutions for structures threatened by water. Ashley Wilson of the National Trust for Historic Preservation spoke about the different options the Trust had looked at to protect Mies van der Rohe’s Farnsworth House, which is subject to frequent destructive flooding. Then Jenna Cellini Bresler of Robert Silman Associates described the solution they had ultimately chosen: a set of hydraulic lifts, hidden under the house, which can temporarily lift the house above water during flood events. Next, Elizabeth C. English of the Buoyant Foundation Project described her own work in retrofitting houses to allow them to float off their foundations during floods, then settle back in place without mechanical systems.

The day ended with a conversation about the devastating impacts of this year’s hurricane season. Winslow Hastie spoke about the issues recent storms had caused in Charleston, while Don Bain and Hal Needham gave first-hand accounts the effect of Hurricane Harvey on Texas’ Gulf Coast. While no one from Puerto Rico was able to attend the conference, the speakers expressed deep sadness over the destruction seen on the island, and hoped for the swiftest possible recovery.

Check out the conference program and list of speakers to see what is coming up on Day 3 of the conference!