Protecting Cultural Collections Workshop: Part 1

Happy Wednesday! I hope you are doing well, dear reader. I apologize for not posting on Friday. I was ill and I fear the post would have made little to no sense. But I am back now and want to share a little bit from the workshop on disaster planning and preparedness that I attended yesterday.

So why was I at this workshop? Even though my library does have a disaster plan, and our archives assistant created a basic disaster plan for the archives, we do not have a detailed plan for the archives and special collections. Furthermore, I will admit to being way more interested in part 2 of this workshop series (which will be held in May) when we will get practice salvaging materials. I think everyone needs to understand their institution’s disaster plan or create a plan if there isn’t one in place.

The workshop was held at the California Historical Society in San Francisco and was well attended by individuals from libraries, museums, archives, historical societies, and conservation companies. It is a very nice space for a small workshop, but it was quite cold (although we had chairs and not pews, so it wasn’t as crazy uncomfortable as at the Personal Digital Archiving Conference).

I have just two things I want to share from yesterday’s workshop before I let you get back to your work: one resource and thoughts about water and material damage.

First, one of the coolest resources we learned about yesterday was the Disaster Mitigation Planning Assistance database. It’s a great way to find conservation companies and individual conservators. You can easily update your disaster plan contacts and resources list with this database. I’ve found this very helpful for fleshing out our disaster plan.

The other point is about water, which of course reminded me of the Doctor Who special, The Waters of Mars, especially the Doctor’s line: “Water always wins.” We listened to many examples about water damage due to flash floods, broken pipes, cars hitting fire hydrants outside of historical societies, etc. yesterday. And water does always win. It gets into everything and can cause a lot of damage. However as our workshop leader and conservator, Julie Page, noted, she would much rather have to deal with a water damaged book than a burned book because she has a much better chance of saving the water damaged one. Also, if your building doesn’t have a fire suppression system (often fire sprinklers), then you are massively vulnerable to fire damage.

So, while water might cause a lot of damage (especially to basements where archives often are located), it can also be the lesser of two evils when considering the damage caused by a fire. And considering arson is apparently the leading cause of fire in libraries (I didn’t know that fact), it seems like fire suppression systems should be top priority in any retrofitting project in old library buildings.

I’m sure I’ll have more interesting things to report on after the next workshop, but that’s about all I wanted to say today. Except for yet another plea to back up your personal records and your library’s records in another physical location, just in case disaster does strike. Now I’m going to get off my soapbox and leave you with a fun video. What else could I possibly leave you with than the promo trailer for Doctor Who’s The Waters of Mars? Enjoy.

Have a fantastic rest of your day and I will be back this Friday with some tech and library news. Allons-y!

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