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Salvage Begins

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

To our great disappointment we were not able to get into the Czech/Slovak Museum/Library today due to some sort of safety hazard. Opening Back DoorsWe spent a lot of time waiting around at the barricade hoping to get in. But no luck.

We were, however, able to get into the African American museum late morning. The freezer truck was inside the barricade at the Czech Slovak museum so SteaMold on Carpetsmatic had to find another freezer truck. Best laid plans and all that. The African American museum was not as heavy with mud. The carpeted floors were already thick with mold. It took a while to get doors open and paths cleared for bringing material out. We set up two work streams – one for clean material and one for freezer truck. We actually ended up with three to address museum objects. Susan Kuecker, museum curator, did a great job of prioritizing what to salvage. She decided not to even try to rescue the library books. She had an inventory and she should be able to purchase replacement copies. It’s much better to focus energies on the really unique, irreplaceable material – the archives and museum objects.

She’s “lucky.” The shelves are very tall. The flood line is at 5 foot. Half of the archival material were above the flood waters. We were able to pack almost all the African American Museum archival material out. Hurray! They had to make some difficult choices as to what to save aSorrownd discard. I had just given the Cedar Rapids area library and museum staff a refresher course in disaster preparedness and response about 3 weeks ago and my staff and I had visited the Czech/Slovak and African American Museums a couple weeks ago. They knew what to do and I knew where everything was. What a coincidence! Plus the Iowa Conservation and Preservation Consortium held their annual Save Our Stuff! SOS preservation workshops the first Friday in June with a session on disaster preparedness. So the staff couldn’t have been better prepared. They are doing a superb job.

Dry stuff is in the Masonic Library and wet stuff is in the freezer truck. We’ve put a call out inviting local churches, libraries and museums to add their stuff to the freezer truck. We want that truck packed full when it leaves. The company will dry the archival material out. And we’re working here to gear up our conservation labs to restore the stuff over the next 2-3 years.

Jane Meggers, State Historical Society of Iowa Conservator; Anna Embree, University of Alabama Conservator; and Gary Frost, University of Iowa Conservator were onsite all day and will return to help tomorrow. My spouse, Randy Roeder, also assisted. I talked him into assisting as I thought his height (6’6”) would a great assistance.

The flooding waters are heading south. And if this is like 1993, the flooding has just started.