Section 4: Recovery

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Although speed is essential, the safety of staff and patrons is always the most important consideration. No one should enter the affected area until fire, police, or other emergency personnel have determined that the building is safe.

The process of salvaging wet or damp materials must begin as soon as it is possible to enter the area. Actual procedures will vary according to the extent of the disaster as well as the resources of the institution. A library or musem that can muster a large number of workers (paid or volunteer) and has access to suitable work space will be able to do more at the site than one with few workers and no available working area. However, if the number of items affected is more than can be handled in about 48 hours, some measures must be taken to stabilize them until they can be sorted, dried, copied, discarded, etc. Arrange for the emergency area to be as cool and dry as can be managed. Dry ice; can be used to keep wet items cool; to prevent sticking or burning, don't place it directly on the materials.

In the course of planning, priorities for salvage among the collections should have been worked out. During the response phase, the recovery team should arrange to take out important items first in whatever state they are. After that, materials can be removed according to how vulnerable they are to further damage. Always remove books or objects fallen to the floor first. Items which are easily replaceable or of minor importance to the collection are last. It is important to work methodically since it is quite possible that not everything will be saved.

The techniques on the following pages should be reviewed by everyone on the recovery team to make sure that they are truly within the scope of what can be done, given the actual situation. You may find that what seemed like a straightforward job at the beginning becomes more overwhelming as time goes by and people get tired. If it looks like it will not be possible to get the materials out of the emergency site and dried within 48 hours, call a recovery company right away.

This section details specific recovery techniques including:

Recovery of Wet or Damp Research Materials

  • Books
  • Documents
  • Maps
  • Framed Art on Paper
  • Parchment; Leather

Photographic Materials

  • Film
  • Computers
  • Magnetic Tape

Recovery of Other Materials

  • Paintings
  • Textiles
  • Wooden Objects & Furniture


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