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The Graduation Day Leak: Mitigation/Preservation/Conservation Efforts

We open Preservation Week with a disaster recovery success story from Stewart Plein at West Virginia University, where a severe storm on Graduation Day 2013 caused a leak in the WVU College of Law Library storage area.

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Storm water entered through a section of the College of Law renovation construction destroying one of the clinics and damaging some of our earliest copies of the WV Law Review, from the first volume, printed in 1894, through the 1930s. The mitigation/preservation process took most of the summer.  Books were fanned open to dry, fans operated 24 hours a day to facilitate drying and pages were interwoven with paper towels, pressed with weights, with the process repeated on a weekly basis.

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Furry, live mold growth appeared almost overnight.  Each book with mold growth was wiped clean, fanned out near air circulation and checked on a daily basis for regrowth.  When active mold growth halted, all books were hand vacuumed to ensure no spores remained.

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Due to these efforts the library only had to send two books to the Wert bindery for conservation.  These books absorbed an excessive amount of water and required rebinding.  Any provenance information that was to be retained was discussed with Wert representatives.  The books had been rebound prior to the water damage, and they were rebound with similar bindings. All provenance information retained to ensure continued connection with previous students.

Stewart Plein
Curator, Rare Books Collection
Managing Director, West Virginia Digital Newspaper Project
Assistant Curator, West Virginia and Regional History Center
West Virginia University Libraries

Preservation Week: April 27-May 3, 2014