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Museum tries to keep history above water in Portsmouth, New Hampshire » Yale Climate Connections

At Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, visitors explore a 19th-century sea captain’s home, a Victorian mansion, a World War II-era grocery store, and other buildings that have stood for generations.

“Our root mission is historic preservation and teaching the evolution of this historic neighborhood,” says Rodney Rowland, the museum’s director of facilities and environmental sustainability.

But he says that as the climate warms, some of this history is at risk.

More extreme storms cause surface flooding on the low-lying property. And rising seas are pushing the underground water table higher. So some of the buildings’ basements flood with groundwater during seasonal high tides.

“We’ve already seen history lost,” Rowland says. “We’ve already spent quite a bit of money from damage caused by water.”

The museum is developing plans to better manage stormwater on the property and to upgrade some basements to protect against more frequent floods.

And an interactive exhibit teaches visitors about sea level rise and how communities can adapt.

“We have 100,000 people that come to the site a year,” Rowland says. “We want to make sure every single one of them knows that this is a growing concern.”

And it’s a concern not only for this historic neighborhood but for coastal areas around the world.

Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media

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