Course:4: Housing Your Collections
Lesson:Lesson 3: Disasters--When Bad Things Happen to Good Records



Once everyone is safe and the authorities have told you itís safe to go inside, you can begin evaluating the damage and recovering material. Your disaster plan should outline appropriate steps for recovering your collections; and, if possible, your staff should be educated in recovery procedures. 

The disaster plan template includes appropriate recovery operations for many different types of materials. Take a few minutes to read the Emergency Planning and Recovery Documents section of the template (beginning on page 22). Pay particular attention to the sections that describe recovery of materials that you know you have in your collections. 

You may have noticed a few things in these recovery instructions. 

When paper (not photographic paper) is wet, the best way to ensure recovery is to freeze it within 48 hours.  It may sound strange, but itís true. Deep freezing is an effective way to stabilize collections for days or even months; it stops mold growth, ink running, dye transfer, and swelling. Damp and partially wet materials in a freezer will dry as the moisture changes directly from ice to vapor. A refrigerated truck may at least keep materials cool enough to prevent mold growth. 

Do NOT use a household freezer, as it can take up to 8 months for materials to dry in these, as they arenít cold enough to facilitate drying. If you have a small amount of wet materials, you will usually be better off air-drying them with a fan than putting them in a household freezer. 

However, since some materials such as photographs can be damaged by freezing, it is important to be familiar with recommended recovery procedures for specific types of materials. 

Air-drying is the most common method of dealing with wet books and archival materials. It can be used to treat one item or many, but is most suitable for small numbers of damp or slightly wet books and documents. Air-drying is labor intensive, and requires a great deal of space. 

Donít handle or move anything until you know what is going to be done with it and where it should be moved. 

There is a lot to know about when you are working to recover materials. Staff education--via training, reading, and practice--really is important.

Warped books have been damaged by steam
These books have been damaged by steam.