SHEP Forums

In 2013, Heritage Preservation convened three national forums to explore the role that state cultural agencies should play in conjunction with their State Emergency Management Agency in protecting cultural and historic resources following a disaster.


The goals of the forums were to:

  • Forge strong partnerships between the cultural and emergency management communities;
  • Identify/define the roles and responsibilities of state libraries, archives, museums, historic preservation offices, and emergency management agencies in protecting our cultural heritage in the face of major disasters; and
  • Generate a clear picture of how state agencies can successfully communicate, coordinate, and collaborate in advance of and following major disasters to provide timely and effective assistance to their constituents.


Invitations to the three forums were extended to 22 states, based on their existing statewide readiness, their ability to send representatives from each of the five state agencies, and their distribution among the ten FEMA regions. [Link to PARTNERSHIPS (formerly NETWORKS) page]


Attendees were asked to complete a brief survey prior to their forum. The responses helped inform the forum conversations and underscored the need to establish connections between cultural agencies and their emergency management agency, and especially among cultural agencies. In each of the forums, many cultural stewards admitted to not knowing their colleagues in another sector, even though they were located in the same building – and sometimes even on the same floor. Nearly one quarter of the respondents knew no one from their state, a percentage that factors in the emergency managers, most of whom had never met their state colleagues from the cultural community.


Sixty percent of the respondents said they had responded to a major disaster in their professional capacity, yet just over half said they currently had a defined role (whether written or understood) in responding to major disasters affecting their state. Five percent of the respondents did not know whether they had a role in responding to major disasters. By the end of the forums, this 5% recognized a role they could play and committed to following up in defining their role at their agency.


The two-day forums were structured in such a way to minimize being “talked at” and maximize interaction. Emphasis was placed on communication, cooperation, and collaboration among state agencies, with a strong focus on building relationships between state cultural agencies and their state emergency management agency. The forums comprised a series of fast-paced group exercises interspersed with break-out sessions. For each activity, participants sat by sector (library, museum, archives, emergency management, historical preservation, the arts) or by state to help delegates share perspectives – and to keep participants moving and energized over the course of two intense days.


Documentation of the two days of conversation and focused discussion, along with forum presentations, is available here:


Philadelphia, April 16–17, 2013

  • Forum agenda (PDF) [Create new links for each on new SHEP website]
  • Philadelphia transcript Day 1 (PDF)
  • Philadelphia transcript Day 2 (PDF)
  • Philadelphia facilitation slides (PDF)
  • Primer on the emergency management cycle and FEMA (PDF)
  • Primer on cultural resources (PDF)


St. Louis, May 8–9, 2013

  • Forum agenda (PDF) [Create new links for each on new SHEP website]
  • St. Louis transcript Day 1 (PDF)
  • St. Louis transcript Day 2 (PDF)
  • St. Louis facilitation slides (PDF)
  • Spotlight: The Mandatory Center of Expertise (MCX) for the Curation and Management of Archaeological Collections (CMAC) of the US Army Corps of Engineers (PDF)


Portland, Oregon, June 19–20, 2013

  • Forum agenda (PDF) [Create new links for each on new SHEP website]
  • Portland transcript Day 1 (PDF)
  • Portland transcript Day 2 (PDF)
  • Portland facilitation slides (PDF)
  • Primer on the emergency management cycle and FEMA (PDF)
  • Primer on cultural resources (PDF)
  • Spotlight: Colorado Cultural and Historic Resources Alliance (PDF)


The SHEP forums were a resounding success. Forum participants were vocal in their desire to continue learning what other states and sectors were doing to prepare for disasters. State emergency managers realized that emergency managers at all levels of government need to be educated about the importance of cultural institutions. Cultural stewards recognized that they need a greater understanding of state emergency management response structures, priorities, and capabilities. The need to continue collaboration was mentioned repeatedly at all three forums.


The following comments are representative of the reactions to the forums:


The intensive hands-on work was very valuable and pushed us to think and talk in new ways about these issues. The accountability in presenting and the condensed time frame were tough but effective. Hearing from other states is helpful as we compile best practices and learn as we go!

– Philadelphia forum


I thought having Emergency Management people together with cultural resource people was a great idea. I wouldn’t have guessed we’d be so lacking in knowledge about the other group and what they do. This meeting certainly helped bridge that knowledge gap.

– St. Louis forum


It was an eye-opening and rewarding opportunity to be able to see how both sides operate – and perhaps more importantly – view one another’s roles and responsibilities. Ignorance of how each sector operates is the key stumbling block of working together in effective partnerships. This forum broke down those barriers as well as provided wonderful examples of functioning partnerships, a forum to meet not only our state representatives, but others in the region/country as well. Bravo – looking forward to continuing the efforts begun in Portland!

– Portland forum