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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!!