Air Drying

Again this week, Archivist Heather South deserves a shout-out for her many contributions to this post and great work on CREST’s behalf.

The crisis at the Yanceyville Public Library three weeks ago highlighted the importance of air drying techniques. Archivist Heather South and NCDCR Western Regional Supervisor, Jeff Futch, shared their knowledge with staff and volunteers at the library and got them started on the salvage process that would consume a great deal of space and time before the library could re-open.

??????????During our C2C disaster preparedness workshops, we guide participants in practicing rinsing and air drying books and photographs. Heritage Preservation also has a helpful 10-minute video with worthwhile instructions. Becoming aware of proper techniques and maintaining a stash of wet recovery supplies is important for every cultural heritage institution.

If spines of wet books are strong enough, they can be placed short side down on a covered tarp or table and fanned open. If spines are too fragile, then interleaving alone is the best technique for drying. If adequate time and space are not immediately available to air dry wet collections, most can be wrapped and placed in a freezer and air dried later, a few at a time. Remember, mold begins to grow after 48 hours of moist conditions, so it’s important to begin the salvage process right away.

The following supplies are essential for wet recovery.

  • nitrile gloves: these are an essential part of your personal protective equipment (PPE) and will keep the contaminants that may be in the water from your skin.
  • Absorbent coverings for the drying surface: these can be fabric or paper, but remember that wet dyes often bleed and some wet book covers will stain the fabrics they are placed upon. Disposable paper, such as paper towels or unprinted newspaper, may be the best bet. You will need to replace it often, as the paper wicks moisture from the drying books. The books can be flipped over regularly to let gravity help with moisture wicking and drying at each end.
  • Interleaving materials: Unprinted paper towels or blotting paper can be inserted every 25 – 50 pages to help wick moisture from the inside of the book and speed the drying process. Wet interleaves should be replaced for active drying to continue.
  • Wax paper: this is useful to interleave illustrations so that their coatings will not stick to the adjacent page as they dry. Coated pages are less likely to stick to wax paper and if they do, the material is still transparent enough to allow  some visibility for the image beneath. In Yanceyville responders only used this technique on the books that were really wet, rather than damp. Wax paper is also a good material for wrapping wet books before freezing.
  • Fans: experts caution against blowing the fan directly on the drying materials. Rather, fans should be directed for overall air circulation, speeding the drying process and preventing mold spores from settling on damp materials.

Consider gathering these supplies and practicing some of these techniques for a staff drill to increase your institution’s level of disaster preparedness. If you do this kind of activity for May Day, you can even be in the running to win a prizes from Heritage Preservation or at least get credit for your efforts on this list in 2014.


About collectionsconversations

This blog will contain posts from the C2C project staff on a variety of topics related to collections care and disaster preparedness. Enjoy the posts and let us know if you would like additional information or have a topic you would like for us to address.

Posted on January 28, 2014, in Connecting to Collections, disaster preparedness, workshops and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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