Flood Recovery Category

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Disaster Response Practice

Friday, May 27, 2011

The best way to be prepared is to practice. As school children we have practice drills on how to respond to a fire alarm. Constant practice turns into a habit. We all know how to respond to a fire alarm without even thinking.

Today we had a disaster response practice drill. Each team had to assess the situation, plan for the response, and then rescue and pack the items. The practice was the aftermath of a “tornado” that left books, CDs, and photographs in mud along with snakes and fish.

We practiced safety, organized supplies, determined what materials should not be saved, rinsed and packed the books for freezing, and rinsed CDs and photographs and set out for air drying.

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Your Aunt’s Dinner Party

Thursday, May 26, 2011

What would you do if your aunt called you two days before her dinner party and informed you that due to a fire in her kitchen she wanted you to host her party at your house? OceanTeacher Academy students used this scenario to practice their disaster planning skills. We all have had to deal with “disasters” in our life and as a result have developed skills that can be helpful when dealing with a disaster to our library or museum collection. Questions the students had to resolve were: what was the goal in resolving the dinner disaster, how was the dinner going to be handled, what steps would be involved in holding the dinner, how would they get the food and other resources needed, and who was going to pay for the dinner?

Of the four groups, no two had the same solution. Each approach to responding to the disaster was different but creative and resulted in a successful dinner party.

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Flattening A Book

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Salvaging damaged books can be very time consuming, especially if they don’t dry flat. Today Caitlin Moore demonstrated how to flatten a book. First you lightly mist a page, using a mister that sprays a very fine mist, interleave with a blank piece of paper every few pages, put a board over the book, and put a weight on the board. One must make sure that the board is slightly larger than the book.

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Preparing for Disasters

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

An important part of preparing for disasters is to practice and experiment before a disaster. An excellent drill is to get books wet in clean tap water and then air dry them. Get a broad range of books wet and see what happens as they dry. A couple of the books that we worked on at OceanTeacher Academy got so wet and heavy that the text block started to tear away from the cover. When that happens, it’s best to separate the text from the cover and dry separately.

Another book had pages that started to stick together. Using a simple beveled kitchen tool with rounded corners was used to separate the pages. The tool was gently inserted between the pages and then gently wiggled to separate the pages.

Sometimes a word was lost when a tiny piece of the page stuck to the other page. With just a word lost here and there, it was still easy to read the text. However, an important consideration is to think about how long one should spend on a book. Is the book worth spending 2-3 hours, separating each page? Or can it easily be replaced?

Since we are simulating a disaster, we are using tools easily at hand and not tools from a conservation lab

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OceanTeacher Academy Disaster Response Session 2011

Monday, May 23, 2011

I am, once again, teaching a Disaster Planning and Recovery course at the OceanTeacher Academy in Ostend, Belgium. Today we learned about air drying books which can be very tedious and time consuming. Each book needs to have plain paper inserted between the covers and every few pages to wick up the water. Once the paper is wet, the paper needs to be changed for dry paper to continue to wick up the water to hasten the drying of the pages in the books.

We also learned that we needed to look at our building inside and out to see if there is anything that could become a disaster. Librarian Jan Haspeslagh gave us a tour of his library and pointed out things that are problems for his library. In particular, this library has drain spouts that are disconnected.
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Czech book project

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

One of the projects that we’ve just begun to address has been waiting two years. The Czech Slovak library has roughly 7500 books that were frozen post flood. They estimate that 20 % of the books are damaged beyond repair and will need to be replaced. ¬†Nancy and I went up to meet with Dave Muhlena to get an idea of the range of material and extent of the damage to the books. We took a random sample of 19 books which I brought back to the lab to work on. This children’s book was in such bad shape I thought it would be a good example. These images are of the book in it’s post flood condition before it’s been worked on.

To flatten this book I humidified it, interleaved with 10 pt. card and put it in the press overnight. The moisture relaxed the paper and the card interleaving absorbed the excess. The pressure of the press reshaped the warped pages to lie flat again. I lined the pastedowns and endsheets with paste and thin japanese paper so I could reattach them to the text block. I made new endpapers and a new case for the cover and reattached the cover image to the front of the book. This was the result:

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Colfax flood

Thursday, August 19, 2010

A team from the University of Iowa and the State Historical Society of Iowa spent two days early this week assisting Colfax Historical Society members with evacuating collections from their flood-damaged museum.

The museum was in the middle of a new building project next door to the current museum when the flooding hit. The older building, which housed the collections, took on at least four feet of water while the newer building, which is on higher ground, took only a few inches. The team was able to dry out the new building and use it to temporarily store the retrieved collections. Several volumes of the Colfax Tribune and other paper items are now drying in UI Libraries’ book freeze-dryer.

It will take several days to complete the evacuation of the entire collection and the UI/ State Historical Society team will continue to provide advice to museum staff.

The Colfax Historical Society has several other smaller buildings that were also damaged by the flood. Donations may be sent to Colfax Historical Society, PO Box 123, Colfax, IA 50054, to the attention of “Flood Recovery.”

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Disaster Response Drill

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Today we put into practice everything that we had learned over the five days. When students came to class they learned that there had been a “disaster.” They had to work in teams to recover the water and mud covered CDs, photographs, and books. They even had to deal with the paparazzi who asked them about the disaster and how much it would cost to recover. They knew that they should just tell the reporter that they didn’t know the extent of the damage and were working to stabilize the situation.

They learned that snakes and bugs could be a problem and that they needed to take appropriate precautions. They rinsed the books and packed them for freeze drying and set the CDs and photographs aside for air drying.

They learned that working in a team is a good thing. No one can handle a disaster onhis/her own. Students were encouraged practice the drills with colleagues once back home.

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Banner Repaired

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Blog IMG_0858This banner from the African American Museum was signed by Jesse Jackson. The signature and surrounding illustration were sprayed with some sort of fixative which didn’t end up being very sound. The large part of the banner was fine but the areas with the fixative were detached and¬†curling up away from the image, taking with it the signature and image.

Blog IMG_0853After consulting with Gary we decided the best course of treatment would be using diluted lascaux adhesive. I applied this with a tiny brush and tacked down all the small curling flags. It was very time consuming but for the most part successful. The image and signature remain intact.

Blog IMG_0915

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Moving On!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

The long awaited day arrived at last. We moved out of our “dirty room” at Oakdale Hall, took down our sign, and turned in our keys! Over 18 months ago in the midst of finding space for faculty and students, University of Iowa officials took time to find us a room where we could store the flood damaged items from the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library and the African American Museum of Iowa. I’m still amazed at the fast turn around time we had for the flood response. The flood waters hit these two museums June 12, 2008. We were salvaging collections by June 18 and had a place at the University secured by June 23 with collections arriving the next day. Work on collections began immediately. Wow!

I suspect that this time table seemed really slow for the staffs of the two museums. I know it would feel slow if it were my collections. However, for an area disaster on the scale we had, this is very quick response time.

At one time this room was so full of items that we could barely move. The room allowed us to put things on hold until the museums could decide how to move forward. We started to clean the Czech LPs immediately as they were the most valuable and at highest risk of further damage. The Czech/Slovak staff took several boxes of items back for volunteers to clean. The African American staff brought in a consultant conservator to assist in prioritizing material.

We stored close to 5,000 records and 500 museum objects until we had them clean enough to bring into the conservation lab. Not all items were taken to the lab for final cleaning. Many were cleaned at Oakdale either because they were too big or the cleaning process was too dirty and smelly. Several objects were sent off to other conservation labs. All the LP and 45 records are clean and returned to the Czech/Slovak Museum and close to 300 objects have been returned to the African American museum. Others are waiting to be picked up. We have less than 30 objects left to clean.

We owe a special thanks to Steve Stenstrom (Wooden Object Conservator, Windsor Heights, IA) who conducted several sessions on cleaning metals and wooden objects; Helen Alten (Objects Conservator, West Virginia) who provided training and guidance on baskets and gourds; and Gary Frost (UI Libraries Conservator) who provided assistance with cleaning of the records, miscellaneous paper items, and the Jackson banner.

We could not have provided the flood recovery work for the African American Museum of Iowa and the National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library without this room.

The rest of our work will be conducted in our conservation lab.

Though we still have much to do, it was a big step (physically and psychologically) to move out of the Oakdale campus. The end is in sight!!