Since the initial check of the archives in the early days of the flooding in Nashville, TN, there has been some damage. The archive is located on the second story of a multi-story building, so it was not suspected to sustain any further damage.
After speaking to a member of the church in whose building the repository is located, I realized that leaks had developed in the building. He told me that there had been leaking in an upstairs floor where there is an exercise room and he thought someone had said there were leaks elsewhere in the building. I hastened to the repository, opened the door, and realized that not only had moisture gotten into the room, but the AC had been turned off as well. The musty smell and the high temperature were unmistakable. Carpet on both sides of a set of shelves was wet. Some supplies were on the floor and had been pushed against the shelves, serving as siphons for the water. I turned the air back on, and proceeded to do what I could.
My disaster plan called for me contacting the landlord (church) to have their people made aware of the damage. I am working on this, but my contact numbers have not worked. The damage that has been done that requires immediate attention is all work I can do myself, so that part is not really an issue. I have stabilized the damaged portion of the collection. A wet-vac (kept on site) got what water was possible to suck up, and we’ve put down some absorbent material (kept on site) to take up more. I have a fan (kept on site) going and the documents that are damp are drying. We do not have a dehumidifier (missed that one for on site, but have 2 listed as available in the plan,) but I will obtain one within a day. The space is small enough that a residential unit should work. (Particularly if the air remains on.)
Fortunately the damage is not extensive. One item will need pressing. There are several items that have curled up in the humidity that will have to be dealt with, but that should not be an issue. Several older volumes were stored in containers that were themselves ruined, but the moisture had failed to reach more than the outside bindings of the volumes. Some papers were damp on the edges, as were some bound volumes, but they are drying nicely. A few published papers were fairly badly damaged, but we have other copies. No sign of mold, warping, or damage to writing on any of those items. Several cartons of supplies that were on the floor were ruined. Only a small handful of unique documents have been damaged at all, and they seem to be salvageable. (I moved an oil painting that had been left on the floor by someone away from the area into storage just two weeks ago, thank God.)
There is still work to do. The disaster plan mostly worked as it was supposed to, and salvage operations have gone well. Communication fell through with people not connected to the archives or under its control, though. The next stage will be to discuss with the appropriate people what needs to be done to repair more extensive damage in the form of wet carpet that might produce mold. We also need to discover why the archivist was not called when the occupants and owners of the building became aware that there were leaks and see that we get something in place to keep that from happening again. The books and documents will have to be removed from those shelves where the leak was and the shelves moved to be sure we are dry and mold free. Of course, the leak itself will need repair. We will once again have to discuss the need for leaving environmental controls in place. An evaluation of the incident will be submitted to the Commission on Archives and History as soon as possible.
We were lucky. Or blessed.
Jim Havron, C.A.