Hurricanes can damage collections in multiple ways. The sheer impact of high winds, flying debris, driving rain and rushing and rising waters can break windows, blow papers around, scatter and tear documents, and knock over bookshelves. Even if books initially remain on bookshelves, rain or flood water can cause the paper in the books to expand, swelling book bindings to the point where loosely stacked books may pop off the shelves. Water can dissolve inks, colorants and other components of letters, prints, photographs and books. More importantly, flood waters are often dirty or contaminated, depositing soil, mud or worse on precious family treasures.
Following rain or flooding, residual dampness can lead to the growth of mold which can cause health problems for humans and disfigure books and papers. Some papers, such as clay-coated bookplates, can also stick or “block” together.
Despite these dire circumstances, there are actions that can be taken to salvage collections of hurricane-damaged papers, prints, books and even audiovisual materials such as films, tapes, CDs and DVDs.
Learning from Katrina: Conservators' First-Person Accounts of Response and Recovery; Suggestions for Best Practice provides interviews with seven recovery volunteers recorded at the Library in April 2006.
Recommended links for flood-related emergencies are listed below:
- Response to Floods and Water Damage for Libraries, Archives, Museums, and Other Repositories - provides extensive guidance for preparedness, response, and salvage.
- When the Waters Rise - summarizes key steps in flood response.
- Quick Reference: Disaster Response and Recovery - provides information for immediate use by institutions and individuals faced with collection salvage and recovery.
(To view these videos, you need the RealPlayer, a free application for playing video and audio files. You can download the RealPlayer from the RealNetworks site.)
- Video demonstration of how to wash CDs
- Video demonstration of how to wash audio cassettes
- Video demonstration of how to wash video cassettes