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!!

Inventorying Flood-Affected Collections

Friday, June 26, 2009

As conservation work moves along for flood-affected artifacts from the African American Museum of Iowa, we momentarily shifted away from treatment of metals to pick up our inventory of small objects comprised of a variety of media. Two primary functions of the inventory are to verify the holdings under our care against the original AAMI data and also to provide our own identification number for the artifacts. Tagging the artifacts with both IDs and generating descriptive data for our flood recovery inventory helps us track and evaluate where we are in the treatment process, and, consequently, how much work we have left to do.


Thursday, September 4, 2008

Finished with the initial cleaning of all–yes all– the records. We had abused the Oakdale paper facility for the summer, and Tim let us use the space for a party. Nancy picked up sandwiches, Gary and Joyce brought drinks and the table decoration, and Caitlin, Kat and I cleaned up the space. Kristin, Joyce, Bryan, Bill, and Kat–who had all helped with the cleaning in various stages came as well as the nearly the entire Preservation Department from the University’s Main Library. It functioned as an open house, as it was the first time some of the staff had gotten to see the paper facility and how we had been using it to treat flood materials. Some of the staff also toured the storage facility in the research building.

45s Are Fun!

Thursday, August 21, 2008

After working on the LPs and 78s, the 45s are a breeze. First, there are only three boxes–about 300 to clean. Second, they are small and cute and easy to handle. They are not brittle, like the 78s. They have few labels running, unlike all the Supraphon from the LPs. The one problem, however, is that they are the last boxes we got to, and are smelly and moldy, and many of the plastic sleeves have adhered to the covers. This happened to the LPs as well, but it seems like these dried a bit and so stuck more to  each other.

Cleaning 78s

Thursday, July 31

Cleaning the 78’s from the Czech Slovak record collection has been our longest project so far. Just the cursory cleaning we did out at the Oakdale paper facility took two months. We used two water baths, one with photo flo, a mild soap; and one with clean water to rinse. We then hung them up to dry using the paper drying rack out at Oakdale. We cleaned 3,300 78s altogether.

Cleaning CDs and DVDs

Friday, July 25, 2008

The DVDs and CDs from the African-American Museum are still caked with dirt. Most had been in plastic cases, and so Bill and I pitched the covers and dry wiped these. There was a stack, however, that were only in paper sleeves, and so in worse condition. Nervous about putting the CDs and DVDs into water, Nancy tracked down some guidelines for us. We placed them into distilled water and wiped carefully from the center outward — like wheel spokes — not in a circular motion, following the ridges as we had for the records. Again, in order to dry them, we hang them in the paper drying rack at Oakdale. In order not to scratch the surface, we use soft cotton fabric between the surface of the CD/DVD and the marble.

How to Restore LPs, DVDs, CDs Video Debuts

Wednesday, July 23, 2008 

The Gazette was really fast in getting this video posted. It looks pretty good. Bill Voss and Elizabeth Stone did a great job demonstrating how to clean the discs.

We continue to make progress on flood recovery efforts. Bryan Stusse has about 1/2 of the Czech LPs inventory completed. Kristin has most of the monitoring sites for book moisture content established and logged in first reading. We’ll take the readings once a week (unless we see a problem) until the Main Library HVAC system is 100% funtional. We have the book cases ordered for staff in the basement. Caitlin and Beth did a box and a half of 78s. They found interesting mold on some of the 78s. They can clean the 78s in half the time as the LPs which is good since there are twice as many. They are trying to figure out how to hang more.

I spent most of the day trying to figure out contract language, pricing, and work flow. How do we keep work flowing consistently enough so I can keep Caitlin on staff and actually pay Beth? The books and documents might not come back from the freeze drying process for several months. We’ll need to wait until David determines which LPs he can replace and which ones we need to restore before we can do any additional work on the LPs. It’s a challenge.

When I got home, I heard a beeping sound coming from my closet. Closer investigation determined the sound was coming from my dance shoe bag. For some unknown reason, I stuck my cell phone in my shoe bag last night! The message on my cell phone was an invitation to join the Governor’s Rebuild Iowa Taskforce on Record Retention. First meeting next Wednesday.

I finished my day with a great dance lesson. We worked on fox trot and tango.

Hanging in There

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Caitlin has gone home to visit Michigan. Which means Bill has come to help me out. Although he makes fun of the lunches I bring, and doesn’t laugh at my jokes, it is good to have two people doing this. The day goes faster and more smoothly. Plus, Bill does appreciate the silly names of the bands–and we wonder what “adult only polka” might be, as there are several in the last box.  Caitlin misses washing the last box of LPs, but we have plenty of 78 boxes ahead of us.

False Alarm

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The Cedar Rapids Gazette announced the posting of Susan Hansen’s “How to Repair Flood Damaged Books” at
She did a great job! The name is a little misleading as the video is about cleaning and drying out books not repairing. Oh, well.

Beth and I went over to the Oakdale storage room to grab a few duplicate LPs and sampling of 78s. I noted that Kristin and Bryan have made excellent progress in sorting through all the boxes. We could not find any more LPs. We must have cleaned the duplicates already which is probably a good thing. I wasn’t sure how we could safely store them without cleaning them anyway. Before we could grab the 78s, the fire alarm went off and we had to exit the building. Although we were sure it was a false alarm, we were unnerved at the idea that what was saved from the flood waters might go up in smoke. After 20 minutes of hanging out, we were informed that there was no fire after all and we could go back into the building. Whew!

Back at my office, I met with LeAnn from Johnson County Historical Society about their books and documents that were salvaged. The flood waters didn’t actually get to their building; the underground water did. Only the bottom shelf of items in the basement was impacted. With Gary Frost’s assistance, they packed out around 70-100 books and a few documents and sent them off to be freeze-dried. Once the books and documents are returned, we’ll be working with them to assess and restore the items.

The Iowa Women’s Archives (Main Library) reported 66.2 degrees and 61% RH. We agreed to run fans during the day and monitor situation. The preservation staff is settling in. Still missing bits and pieces of stuff including our large copier. Gary Grout believes he has located shelving they can install early next week. Some of my staff is starting to show signs of being frayed around the edges.

This afternoon I went to have my knee examined. I’ve been a little worried about it. The pain increased after Friday the 13th evacuation activities and never settled down. As a dancer I rely on that knee. (Well, for other things, too, but dancing is most important!) I was relieved to find out that it’s only a little arthritis and slight weakening that can be addressed with physical therapy. ’Course this means that I now have to add physical therapy sessions to my already overscheduled life.

I returned late to my office to a message that there might be a mold outbreak at Hardin Library and to please call. I had a minor panic attack. How could I deal with this? I returned the call and discovered it was only three books and based on the description probably not mold. I sent out an email to that effect to Susan advising her to take appropriate “mold protection” precautions but that it probably wasn’t mold.

By 5:15 I desperately needed a break. Randy and I headed out to George’s for a cheese burger and beer. Much refreshed, I headed out to the Art Library for the much awaited first inspection by preservation staff.