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VICE: The archivists saving human history amid climate change

Climate change is making the world hotter, more humid and more stormy — all conditions that put sensitive paper archives at risk. 

This problem prompted archivists including the University of Cincinnati's Eira Tansey to complete the Repository Data Project, a growing database that currently catalogs more than 25,000 archives in the United States, including major university libraries, small museums, corporate archives and art facilities.

Tansey, a digital archivist and records manager in UC Libaries' Archives and Rare Books Library, is one of two principal investigators of the "Repo Data" project. She tells VICE the reason for making this database is to figure out which facilities are at risk of sea level rise and worsened storm surges over the next 100 years. If they know what’s at risk, theoretically, they can plan and prepare for the worst. Or alternatively, they can at least know which facilities need help when the next disaster strikes.

“As there will be inevitable migration and abandonment of certain areas, the only traces that will be left of some places is in the archives,” Tansey says. “And so, we have a large amount of responsibility for what it looks like to do our work in the context of climate change.”

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