National Heritage Responders (NHR)

The National Heritage Responders (NHR) - formerly the American Institute for Conservation - Collections Emergency Response Team (AIC-CERT) - responds to the needs of cultural institutions during emergencies and disasters through coordinated efforts with first responders, state agencies, vendors and the public. Volunteers can provide advice and referrals by phone at the number above.

Requests for onsite assistance will be forwarded by the volunteer to the NHR Coordinator and Emergency Programs Coordinator for response. Less urgent questions can also be answered by emailing

Hurricane damage to the History Society on MS coast.
Photo by Paul Messier

In 2007 the Foundation of the American Institute for Conservation Historic and Artistic Works (FAIC) received funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services to develop a series of advanced workshops to train conservators and other library and museum professionals. These dynamic and highly successful workshops produced a group of 61 ”rapid responders” who are trained to react to disasters.

43 additional NHR members were trained in 2011, again with support from the Institute of Museum and Library Services, bringing the total number of volunteers to 107.  The expanded group provides better geographic coverage and a wider set of skills in responding to collections.

NHR began in part as a reaction to hurricanes Katrina and Rita, which struck New Orleans in the summer of 2005. Conservators possessed the much-needed expertise to save collections, but the administrative structure to coordinate the distribution of those skills was lacking. The program has since developed into a cohesive volunteer group of strongly committed conservators and other collections care professionals who monitor disasters as they occur across the nation and respond accordingly.

The group provides assistance by phone and email to collecting institutions affected by everything from leaking pipes to roof damage. NHR has deployed experts to assist with major floods in the Midwest and Hurricane Ike, both in 2008, and to other events. After each event, information is shared and techniques are evaluated and refined by team members.

Who Are The National Heritage Responders?

Where they are located

The National Heritage Responders come from all corners of the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii (as well as American Samoa, not pictured above).

The skills they offer

They are conservators, archivists, collection managers, and other professionals. Together, they have a diverse skill set and have experience in handling a wide range of materials, from paper to textiles to paintings and more!

NHR Responses

Hurricane Florence

NHR teams are standing by to assist collecting institutions once needs are assessed and it is safe to work in the region. Updates will be posted to the AIC blog.

Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria

NHR members and teams deployed to assist institutions in Texas, Florida, and Puerto Rico after the 2017 hurricanes struck, and provided advice to collections in the Virgin Islands and Northern California as well. Learn more about FAIC's activities on the AIC blog.

Superstorm Sandy

NHR had volunteer conservators helping in New York, providing assistance and advice to those affected by Hurricane Sandy. On Nov. 4, 2012, MoMA and NHR hosted an informational seminar for artists and art owners. Sotheby's generously donated a Leadership Gift in support of NHR's activities, which allowed conservators to reach out further to arts communities.

Haiti Earthquake

FAIC joined the Smithsonian Institution and the U.S. Committee of the Blue Shield (USCBS) to help recover cultural and historic artifacts damaged by the January 12 earthquakes in Haiti. FAIC sent 21 conservators for a total of 233 days in 2010, with the support of the National Endowment for the Humanities, National Endowment for the Arts, Institute of Museum and Library Services, and donations from individuals.

Minot, ND Floods

NHR  had "boots on the ground" Friday, August 5, 2011 to assist the Ward County Historical Society in Minot, North Dakota. The call for volunteers went out on Tuesday afternoon. By Thursday, we had an Incident Action Plan, a three-person team, and airline tickets, car rental, and hotel rooms booked. This is a real testament to the dedication of the team volunteers and to the maturing nature of NHR.

Hurricane Ike

On September 13, 2008, Hurricane Ike struck Galveston, Texas as a category 2 hurricane with a storm surge classified as category 4 and winds of 120 miles per hour (193 km/h). As a city on the Gulf Coast, Galveston has been bombarded by hurricanes in the past and the city has good disaster response plans in place. Still, Ike surpassed what could be planned for. In fact, the perimeter of the island was changed from the storm.

Image: Damage from Hurricane Ike in Galveston, TX. Photo by Karen Pavelka

Read more about NHR responses > > >

Support NHR

We invite you to support this important resource for America’s collections. Although team members volunteer their time, FAIC must pay for their travel, lodging, meals, and supplies, as well as the overall management of the program. Please click here to make your contribution.

Need Help Now?

Need assistance now due to a disaster? 

Call NHR 202.661.8068, available 24/7.