For the past two days, Alessandro and myself have been at the Coleraine campus, helping out after a hot water pipe burst in the archives, affecting many cardboard boxes full of student files, thesis, exam papers and also some of the Vice-chancellor’s files.
When we arrived on wednesday, the first thing we did was to prioritise what had to be salvaged and what was a priority to work on. It turned out that each student files had to be kept indefinitely by the University and therefore we set to work on those immediately. Depending on their location at the time of the flood, they were affected differently. Some were compacted, with pages rather difficult to separate, ink running throughout the files while others were only slightly wet and had no major information lost.
We were given a study room in the main Library to work through the files (7 boxes) . We had brought blotting paper with us and had plenty of blank newsprint A4 sheets. Fiona (the assistant archivist) had found two air fans that we installed at the end of each table to help in the drying process. And so Alessandro, Fiona and myself started to work through each file, opening a folder on blotting paper, and interleaving each page with newsprint as required, and changing those regularly.
It rapidly turned out to be a very time-consuming business and it became clear we would not have enough time to dry each file before the weekend. Mould growth would follow if nothing was done rapidly so we advised Fiona on getting most of the files dry frozen in individual bags at a temperature of -10 to -20 degrees celsius. That way she would have more time to work through each files 1 at a time. The micro-biological department at the University has said they would be able to find some space in their freezers.