Museum Handbook: Primer on Disaster Preparedness
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The choice of packing containers should be carefully considered. Although corrugated board boxes are cheaper to purchase, locate and store on site than plastic type milk crates, they may restrict the rate and efficiency of drying and also be prone to collapse when filled with wet material. If it is possible to decide in advance what method of drying is to be used, be guided by the technical requirements of the vendor s drying system. For instance, if freeze-drying is to be used, one cubic foot plastic milk crates might be preferred, since these provide open spaces within the interlocking crates to aid in the efficient out-gassing of ice by sublimation.

With some forms of vacuum drying where sublimation does not occur, corrugated boxes may be quite suitable, depending on the location of the heat source in the chamber. In either case, containers should not be larger than approximately one cubic foot, to avoid excessive weight, a vital consideration for workers removing material from site and also to help reduce damage from collapsing boxes. Usually boxes will be prepared for freezing on pallets and this is where the weight of heavy wet boxes can collapse and cause additional damage to material within the pile.

To avoid this, use plastic milk crates or very sturdy corrugated boxes for the wettest material and re-box file records if their original boxes are saturated with water. Endeavor to use one size and type of box. If this not possible, do not mix sizes when packing on pallets. The number of boxes per pallet should be no more than can be supported without collapse.

Although faster freezing and drying will result if boxes are not packed tightly, the contents will distort during the drying operation. To achieve the best drying results for books, they should be packed closely together so that drying is done under some restraining pressure. A book should never be packed foredge down as the weight of the text block will cause an inversion of its natural round shape. Pack books spine-down or flat and avoid placing larger volumes on top of smaller ones to avoid sagging which will be costly to correct during restoration.

The decisions taken at this stage will greatly affect the outcome and costs of the processes used for cold storage, drying and restoration. It has, unfortunately, not been sufficiently appreciated in the past that care in packing at this stage will significantly reduce post-recovery costs.

High costs certainly occur if boxes are stacked on pallets in mixed sizes which will increase the potential for collapse under the weight of water, crushing and damaging the material in the process.

It should be possible to move the wet materials directly from library to freezing facility, preferably in refrigerated trucks which can be drawn up to the loading site. For small collections of books and documents, dry ice may be used to freeze the material for transport in un-refrigerated trucks to long-term freezing facilities. (Gloves should be worn at all times when handling dry ice).