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Disaster Response Summarized

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

I continued to provide the disaster recovery coordination, coming home every night exhausted.

The staff at each site — Czech/Slovak Museum & Library and the African American Historical Museum and Cultural Center of Iowa — were phenomenal. They kept their cool. They followed all the disaster response steps — assess before going to work, divide into teams, assign a coordinator, keep the disaster recovery service in the loop, have the director deal with PR/insurance/board/volunteers, etc. They unflinchingly made tough decisions based on an in depth knowledge of their collections — keep if possible because hard to replace or direct link to a collection (provenance), toss because they had several or easy to replace, stabilize and make a decision later. They took time out to talk to NPR and FEMA. Worked hard to keep their volunteers in food and drink.

Our response company, Steamatic out of Alsip (Chicago area), deserve high praise. Mark Cosgrove was unflapable — well, except for once which you can pry out of me with a drink, I almost lost it over the same incident, too. His staff is well trained in collection recovery. They were polite and listened to my reiterations without complaints; careful with collections and very supportive.

Textile conservators from the Chicago Conservation Center came on site to clean textiles on Saturday. Our wood conservator was onsite today to do initial assessment and provide drying out advice that has already been implemented.

Things that couldn’t not be frozen or rescued on site are on their way to a University of Iowa storage site. Some materials have already been conserved by the State Historical Society of Iowa book and paper conservator, Jane Megger.

I stopped in at both sites today to take care of some last minute details before heading out to ALA tomorrow. I saw happy faces — everyone pleased with what they had saved, that they had done what they needed to do, and could now take a step back before tackling the long recovery ahead.

Late this afternoon, I received word that we can now start getting into our University of Iowa Art and Music Libraries. The first thing that greeted us was about 7,000 slides under water. Mold will be a problem but has not yet invaded our collections. We’re keeping our fingers crossed!