Working to "Keep History Above Water"
The nearly 10-acre campus of Strawbery Banke incorporates the Puddle Dock neighborhood, named for its earliest incarnation as a tidal inlet. Though the inlet has been filled, the tide still affects the groundwater in the land beneath houses such as Shapley-Drisco-Pridham (above). During King Tide events, where tides average 2+ feet above normal due to the alignment of sun and moon and their proximity to the Earth, groundwater in these basements rises with the tide.
Click here for a link to a time-lapse video of the King Tide event in the dirt floor basement of Shapley-Drisco-Pridham House on December 5, 2017.
Strawbery Banke is engaged in many projects that may physically extend beyond the 10-acre campus but that impact the future of the museum.
Strawbery Banke, in partnership with the City of Portsmouth, opened a major new installation, "Water Has a Memory: Preserving Strawbery Banke Museum & Portsmouth from Sea Level Rise" in 2021.
For more information on the exhibit, click here.
One example of an ongoing project is Strawbery Banke’s work since 2013 with the City of Portsmouth exploring how predicted sea-level rise will affect Portsmouth’s built geography.
“The preservation of our historic houses has always been at the core of our mission" commented Rodney Rowland, Director of Facilities and Environmental Sustainability at Strawbery Banke Museum and representative on the Local Advisory Committee for the Historic Resource Study for the City in a Portsmouth Herald op-ed. "This partnership with the City helps us prepare for any new threats that might arise in the future from storms.”
Yankee Magazine featured Strawbery Banke's response to the challenge in the Mar/Apr cover story, "Rising Seas."
Nicolas Cracknell, Planner with the Portsmouth Historic District Commission, and Peter Britz, Environmental Planner for the City of Portsmouth with Strawbery Banke, have presented at two “Keeping History Above Water” conferences, in Annapolis MD (2017) and Palo Alto (2018) for presentations on Portsmouth’s “Historic Resources Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment and Adaptation Plan.” Rodney Rowland also participated in the St. Augustine (2019) program. The first Keeping History Above Water: Annapolis was an international gathering of over 250 experts and practitioners from around the country hosted by the City of Annapolis with support from the Newport Restoration Foundation. Conference discussions examined the increasing and varied risks posed by sea-level rise to historic coastal communities, their built environments, and traditional ways of life.
The Portsmouth session summarized the city’s Coastal Resilience Initiative (CRI), described as “the City of Portsmouth’s first look at the potential impact from a changing climate [illustrating how] coastal communities like Portsmouth are most vulnerable to impacts of sea-level rise and coastal storm surge… and represents a starting point for the City to identify avenues to implement adaptation measures that impart resiliency in the built environmental and protect natural systems.”
Because Strawbery Banke is among the lowest points in the city and a natural conduit for draining water, the presentation Illustrations included photographs of Strawbery Banke and a set of flood elevation maps including the example shown, a vulnerability assessment, a preliminary outline of potential adaptation strategies, and recommendations for future planning, regulation and policies.
This map of the Historic District of Portsmouth NH includes an overlay (in light blue) shows where flooding would occur in the event of a flood elevation of 13.5’ (a '100 year' coastal flood by 2050). (Image courtesy of the City of Portsmouth)
- Rockingham County Planning Commission, High Water Mark Initiative
- ICNet: The Infrastructure & Climate Network (ICNet) is a network of over 60 academics, students, and practitioners who are dedicated to accelerating climate science and engineering research in the Northeastern United States
- UNH Geospatial Lab ongoing research and student initiatives are described in this blog and this Boston 25 news segment
- American Association of State and Local History webinar on museums and climate change and Strawbery Banke AASLH blog
- New England Museum Association, "We Are Still In" webinar
- Sustainable Museums/UN Sustainable Development initiative
- NH Preservation Alliance "Wet Basements" Workshop
- NH Engineering Conference, Concord NH to explore options to ameliorate basement groundwater flooding.
- Curran, B., Routhier, M., & Mulukutla, G. (2016) Sea-Level Rise Vulnerability Assessment of Coastal Resources in New Hampshire. APT Bulletin: The Journal of Preservation Technology, 47(1), 23-30.
- 3S Artspace guest artist, Yu-Wen-Wu, installation (March 2019)
- "Keeping Our History Above Water" TedX at Eaglebrook School, MA.
- Resilience Symposium for Cultural Institutions (September 2019)
- Resources Radio, Episode 164, "Sunken Treasures? Rising Waters and Historic Preservation, with Rodney Rowland" (January 2022)
- Sea Level Rise Initiative, The Climate Toolkit (March 2022)
- "'Water underground wants to go back': Can ongoing work save Portsmouth history?", Fosters Daily Democrat (September 2022)