Museum Handbook: Primer on Disaster Preparedness
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Orange Line Graphic
Orange Block Graphic REMOVAL AND PACKING

The aisles between stacks and main passageways will probably be strewn with sodden materials. These must be removed first, separately, by human chain, in the exact condition in which they are found. Open books will be greatly swollen, but no attempt should be made to close them. Closing them will cause further damage by tearing the leaves, since paper will not slide when wet. Instead, books should be passed undisturbed to an adjacent dry area where an awaiting team may pack them without disturbing their shape. This particular type of material must not be packed tightly but should be packed flat in boxes and separated with at least one layer of freezer paper and one sheet of 1/2" polystyrene between each open book.

The packing team should have approximately the same number of people as the team which passes the damaged material to them. This will avoid bottlenecks and stacking materials on the floor awaiting packing. If a sufficient number of people and conveyor belts are available, the most efficient place to pack damaged materials will be on site. Teams will have to be organized to assemble packing materials and supply them to the packers in a smooth flow. Use of a second human chain or conveyor will reduce bottlenecks and the likelihood of incoming supplies interfering with the flow of packed materials being passed out of the building. After the isles have been completely cleared, the main work of recovery can begin. Hopefully, a decision will have been made as to which material to remove first: the wettest or the ones in the best condition. As stated earlier, if the majority is only damp and in relatively sound condition, these could be removed first and more rapidly than other materials. In these circumstances deshelving and packing will be a relative quick operation and will help to establish a smooth worker flow. As each line of shelves is emptied, an assistant should code each box and record the box number and its general contents in a notebook. The contents of archival storage boxes are unlikely to be saturated with water if they were previously positioned close together. However, since certain types of boxes have a corrugated inside layer, they may be very wet, even though the major portion of the contents is only damp. In such cases, it is best to repack the contents in new boxes or in plastic milk crates. This will not only make each unit lighter to lift and prevent the collapse of a wet box but will also speed the drying process. When repacking it is important that the new boxes be properly identified.