Rescuing Historic Papers After a Flood

Laura Carter donned a hazmat suit before attempting to rescue Huyck Preserve historic documents that were damaged by Tropical Storm Irene.

Huyck Preserve historic documents are laid out to dry after being damaged by Tropical Storm Irene.

The Huyck Preserve suffered considerable damage after Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011. The upper falls bridge was swept away; the foundation of the lower falls bridge was severely compromised and had to be closed; Lincoln Pond Cottage was flooded and the septic system backed up; and the basement of the Eldridge Research Center—where important papers were stored—was flooded.

The Huyck Preserve staff rescued many of the papers and spread them out to dry in one of the classroom. Before long mold began to grow on the papers. I made an emergency trip to the Preserve (I live in Maryland) so I could sort through the papers myself and determine which ones were historically significant and therefore worth saving. Much of the material could be discarded because we had duplicates in our files. But there were many original letters from the Preserve’s founder Jessie Van Antwerp Huyck.

I did some research to learn what safety precautions are necessary when handling materials in areas where there is mold and other flood-related debris. Here is what I learned and a list of helpful resources.

Some basics:
• Wear an N-95 respirator (a dust mask is not protective enough; you
can get respirators in the hardware store–check to see that it’s N-95
rating)
• Wear goggles without vent holes
• Wear gloves so that you don’t touch mold with your bare hands.
• Wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and boots or work shoes

Here are some Web sites with helpful information. The National Library
of Medicine, for instance has a Web site dealing with restoration of
records. There are also links to Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) resources on building
restoration after floods, health and safety links, etc.

National Library of Medicine info on preservation
http://www.nlm.nih.gov/hmd/preservation/index.html

Preserving treasures after a disaster
http://www.loc.gov/preservation/family/ftpreserv.html

Mold remediation in schools and commercial buildings
http://www.epa.gov/mold/mold_remediation.html

Flood cleanup
http://www.epa.gov/iaq/flood/index.html

EPA’s flood cleanup booklet
http://www.epa.gov/iaq/flood/flood_booklet_en.pdf

Other EPA resources
http://www.epa.gov/iaq/flood/index.html

About L. Stephenson Carter

L. Stephenson Carter is a science writer/editor and was also on the board of directors of the E.N. Huyck Preserve in Rensselaerville, NY.
This entry was posted in Huyck Preserve, Natural History and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Rescuing Historic Papers After a Flood

  1. Frances says:

    Thank you for all the valuable information and links. I hope you were able to save what you need.

  2. Pingback: The Many Lives of Lincoln Pond Cottage | lscnews

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s