We have just finished drying the fire damaged records recently received and are now underway cleaning them. A slow and dirty job! But soot sponges are wonderful at removing all the lose soot especially from covers but also the edges of the volumes which are quite seriously burned.
The smell continues to bother but no doubt continuing to air them will eventually see that oder dissipate. I have tried the baking soda idea which partially works but it is important to replace it fairly regularly.
What have we learned with this experience.
Well it is much easier writing up a disaster plan then actually dealing with the reality of the situation. In all, two of us have spent a number of hours spreading out paper, turning it, cleaning it and re-packing it. The processing of the collection will require completion once we are sure the collection is clean.
- Dry records as soon as possible this puts the brakes on the mould family taking control.
- The older hard bound volumes although damaged externally and around the edges were intact and undamaged inside.
- Whereas the modern cheap means of binding Minutes did not pay off on this occasion. With little protection and ink-jet printing the covers melted, the ink smudged, and the delay in drying produced interesting multi-coloured families of mould.
The moral of this section of the tale is: Use hard bound good quality binding for your Minutes, when the book is full store in a waxed lined box until it is transported to the Archives.
Plastic spiral binding does not protect records and should not be used for retaining significant legal documents. The backing coloured card proved a problem. Blue leached badly when wet where black and green did not!
This fire also proved that almost any box or wrapping protected a record longer then if not in an enclosure. Even the cheap corrugated filing box provided some protection from scorching and soot.
The fire highlighted that if you have not backed up your computer or stored the back-ups off site, then these records are also lost forever. Computers are damaged by fire too!