Water Damage to Book Collections


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Water Damage to Book Collections

  1. 1. Water Damage and the Human Response Factor 1966 Florence, Italy 2007 Manchester, NH
  2. 2. The Arno Floods Florence Drying books at a synagogue, standing upright to promote air circulation Imagine 20 ft of water, river mud, debris and fuel oil. Now imagine it rushing through the streets and basements of Florence’s libraries, churches and municipal buildings. The damage to books and manuscripts was immense. The National Library (the legal deposit library of Italy) had one third of its collections damaged (1,500,000 volumes). The State Archives, with Medici and Palatine documents, were also water-logged and damaged (about 40, 000). And this is not to mention all the other smaller libraries throughout the city!
  3. 3. Books are brought to various sites throughout Italy to dry and to be cleaned. Photographs are taken to accompany books through the restoration process. Pages are interleaved continually, washed, line-dried, treated with fungicides, collated and wrapped in brown envelopes. All books were dried by 1967. Ultimately the books return to the National Library to be rebound. The reading room was transformed into a mending lab and bindery. Removal of National Library books and manuscripts from mud and water. Took almost three weeks with hundreds of volunteers .
  4. 4. The Work and the Workers <ul><li>How you begin to deal with hundreds of thousands of volumes of wet, dirty paper, parchment and leather? </li></ul><ul><li>Emergency salvage: phased conservation (what is the least/most that can be done now to save the book?) </li></ul><ul><li>International library-restoration-conservation corps , assigned different experts to different projects based on nationality </li></ul><ul><li>Mud-angels </li></ul><ul><li>25 year estimate to fully finish mending and rebinding…40 years later, thousands still await treatment </li></ul>
  5. 5. What Was Lost…Actually VERY little <ul><li>Clay coated books in general along with 4000 books on Etruscan (Tuscan art from 7th-2 nd c. BC) art </li></ul><ul><li>Leather bindings: wet and rotten, nearly all needed to be removed and discarded (after photographs and notations were made to reproduce a new binding) </li></ul>
  6. 6. Peter Waters <ul><li>“ The appearance of such volumes can be a devastating, emotional experience, but one must not panic since every volume worth the cost of salvage and restoration can be saved.” </li></ul><ul><li>1971, became the LC’s Head of the Restoration Office </li></ul>
  7. 7. Book Conservation as Science <ul><li>“ The flood was a literal and figurative watershed event for preservation and conservation, beginning their transformations into the professional specializations we recognize today .”(Hedberg) </li></ul><ul><li>Re-evaluation of restoration practices </li></ul><ul><li>“ At the time [of the flood], the word ‘conservation’ was not used for library or archive materials, but only in reference to period objects and paintings.” (Clarkson) </li></ul>
  8. 8. Response time and effort <ul><li>“It is important to make the point that most of the leaves of the wet books in Florence have been saved, through the heroic and self-sacrificing efforts of many thousands of students and other volunteers from many countries, who have gotten the books dried quickly enough to prevent destruction from biological agents.” (Horton) </li></ul>
  9. 9. MCL: HVAC System Failure
  10. 10. Quick Response Saves the Day <ul><li>Fire Department: </li></ul><ul><li>Responded to smoke alarm – set off due to extreme temp of water </li></ul><ul><li>Quickly covered surrounding areas with tarping </li></ul><ul><li>Stayed to help move books </li></ul><ul><li>Began clean-up process until Serv-Pro arrived </li></ul><ul><li>Library Director: </li></ul><ul><li>Identified the shut-off valve for the fire department </li></ul><ul><li>Called for help from staff and trustees (Sunday afternoon) </li></ul><ul><li>Worked all day to remove all books in the flood vicinity – saved thousands from mold </li></ul><ul><li>Filed insurance claims (and investigated a law suit against HVAC contractor) </li></ul>
  11. 11. Disaster Response Plan <ul><li>Plan! Have some sort of plan, no matter how detailed. </li></ul><ul><li>Staff members, the human element, are the most important consideration in the development of a plan. The trauma that people may suffer, as result of an event, needs to be addressed. Everybody should participate in this aspect of the recovery. </li></ul><ul><li>Establish contact vendors, with point of contact information, ahead of time. Copies of the information need to be kept off site. </li></ul>
  12. 12. To think about …Question 1 <ul><li>How long have the books been wet? </li></ul><ul><li>Plain paper can withstand being soaked in water for several days. </li></ul><ul><li>Glossy or clay-coated papers will very quickly (after six hours) pack together and pages will become permanently stuck to one another. </li></ul>
  13. 13. <ul><li>How many items are wet (either soaked or damp)? </li></ul><ul><li>Is there adequate staff and space to deal with the damaged books onsite? Books will need to be laid out on flat surfaces with enough space between them to allow for air flow. Water soaked books are also very heavy and the physical labor is hard going. </li></ul><ul><li>Mold can begin to grow in 24 to 48 hours. Can the staff respond this quickly? Is it safe to do so? </li></ul><ul><li>Do the books need specialized treatment like vacuum freeze-drying (normally taking place off-site)? Vacuum freeze-drying allows the time to make decisions about further treatment post-crisis because it quickly halts a further spread of any existing mold. It does not eradicate it however. Frozen books can be later dried and treated in manageable batches. </li></ul>Question 2:
  14. 14. Question 3: <ul><li>Which items are of the greatest monetary, cultural or legal value? </li></ul><ul><li>Can these items be located, isolated and treated first? </li></ul>
  15. 15. Question 4: <ul><li>Where will the materials be dried? </li></ul><ul><li>On-site: can dehumidifiers (to remove moisture) and fans (to promote air circulation) be brought in? Can the books be secured in a large room away from disaster clean-up or general library traffic? Are you willing to take the chance that the books could be distorted (buckled, cockled or wrinkled) when air dried? </li></ul><ul><li>Off-site: can you get the books quickly to a treatment facility? Hours and minutes count. Can you afford the cost ($5 -$10 per book)? Do you have the time to wait three to four weeks for the books to be returned? </li></ul>
  16. 16. Amazing video: <ul><li>University of Utah: free podcast of the Restoration of Books </li></ul>