29 May 2020

In case of flood

ResearchBuzz is one of my regular stops on my morning rounds. On Thursday Tara Calishain posted:

My mother-in-law passed away at the end of March. Not of coronavirus, if you’re wondering. She was in Alaska and we’re in North Carolina, so we’ve been trying to take care of everything from here. We had two huge boxes of her papers and her daughter’s effects (both daughters are deceased) sent to our house. They were delivered yesterday, but nobody knocked or told us. They sat on our porch for at least 12 hours. Unfortunately it was raining the entire time. One box was standing in an inch of water when I found it.

We won’t be able to salvage all of it, there’s too much damaged, but I want to save at least some of it for my husband’s kids and grandkids. If any salvage experts, archivists, etc have any ideas, please let me know. PLEASE don’t point me toward salvage documents — I know about those. I’m looking for advice like, “Don’t bother with the posterboard items, they’re hosed,” or “You can keep your Kodak slides from getting water spots by doing x.”
It immediately brought to mind Kyla Ubbink's talk to Ottawa Branch last Saturday, so I ask Kyla what her advice would be. Here's her reply which is now posted on ResearchBuzz:
“I am certain that you have had the good sense to get everything out of the wet box, and spread it out on towels to air dry. Watch out for any mould growth, and if anything important (that you wish to save) develops mould, place it in a plastic bag and into the freezer. A conservator can kill the mould and reverse any staining.

As for undulations, warping and distortion there are ways of flattening the documents. You will need to humidify them in order to relax the fibers. Use a large plastic container with a lid. Place a wet towel, at room temperature, flat against the bottom of the container. Place a plastic grid, that is at least 0.5 inches thick (sold as “Eggcrate or Plaskolite Light Diffuser” at hardware stores, cut to size with wire cutters) over the wet towel. Place the documents onto the plastic grid, making certain the wet towel does not touch the documents.  You could probably get away with stacking about ten documents at a time. Place the lid over top and leave them sit for two hours, or until they feel slightly damp. Remove the documents, place them on a flat surface, place Plexiglas sheet or plastic cutting board over top of them (do not use wood or metal board), and add some weight overtop – about 5lbs or so should be enough. Let it sit like this for about a week and then check them, if not flat, let them sit for even longer. Do not use this technique if there is any chance of mould being present.

Any staining that has occurred due to the water damage can be reversed by a trained Professional Conservator. The quicker you have this done, the more successful the treatment will be; try to have any staining addressed within one year. This could get expensive, so pick and choose which items are most important. Stains contain products that will deteriorate the archival materials.

 You mentioned slides and seem to have a question about avoiding water spot. You could wipe the down with a Kim Wipe (or lint free tissue – not facial tissue) slightly dampened with 99% iso propyl alchol. Do not use rubbing alcohol, or disinfectant wipe; these contain impurities that will cause damage. A much better cleaning solution for film based materials is tetra chloroethylene, however, you would require a ventilation unit (not just sitting outside) and thick nitrile gloves to work with this chemical.

 If you have any specific questions, or would like to explore the options of using a conservator, I would be happy to provide advice – kyla@bookandpaperconservation.com.”


1 comment:

Teresa said...

I saw that note from Tara at RB as well...glad you were able to get some advice for her!