Document Restoration and Preservation - Update


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Posted on 09/12/2011 by Vermont State Archives and Records Administration

Below is a compilation of material post by Gregory Sanford to the Muninet news group. For more infomation, contact:

Gregory Sanford
Vermont State Archives and Records Administration
(802) 828-2369

September 9:

While Irene has long departed, we are still dealing with the consequences, including damaged public records.  New York also experienced flooding and damaged public records and the NY State Archives and Records Administration put out this brief guide on dealing with mold that I thought might be of interest (as previously noted the Northeast Document Conservation Center also has a series of useful disaster response pamphlets at:

Here are the NY guidelines:

 Records Advisory:

Remediation of Mold

 Mold Remediation Basics

  1. When papers have been soaked and then left for several days, they will often mold. They may also be contaminated by the contents of the water they were exposed to.
  2. Wet paper records can be frozen to halt mold growth. They can be held indefinitely while frozen. (It is possible instead to air dry damp records; however, this is usually only recommended for small quantities of papers that have not yet begun to mold.)
  3. It is recommended that frozen records then be vacuum freeze dried. This specific procedure removes the frozen water without it going through the liquid phase and is the most effective way to dry them.
  4. Freezing does not, however, kill mold. It suspends mold growth for as long as the material is frozen. Therefore mold-affected papers would still need to be treated after freezing and vacuum freeze drying are completed. The recommended treatment for extensive mold on records is gamma radiation. 
  5. Papers that have been soaked in muddy water will still have dried mud residue on them, in addition to mold, after freezing and vacuum freeze drying. The residue and the mold can be cleaned off in a separate step by workers wearing protective gear.
  6. Specify the need for freezing, vacuum freeze drying, gamma radiation, and surface cleaning in any contract negotiated with a vendor.

August 31: As we continue to address flood damages to our records, here are some points based on questions asked yesterday.


  1. While freeze dry services may be best for bulk damage to irreplaceable records of high legal, administrative, or information value, these services are expensive and some thought should be given to the following considerations:
  2. Some records may simply be beyond restoration because the ink has run, the physical damage too extensive, etc; in other words, the content is irretrievable.  You may have to make the hard decision to not put any resources into attempting restoration, though as with all steps you should keep some photo documentation of the damaged records.
  3. Are there secure back up copies whether digital, microform, or paper? Do you trust the completeness and accessibility of those back-ups? If so such records may become a lower priority depending on their intrinsic value (is the original form truly unique and important?).
  4. Are damaged records under approved record schedules and eligible for destruction in the near future? If you have record schedules indicating that some series have relatively short administrative or legal value and are scheduled for destruction, you may make these records a lower priority. What that timeframe is will have to be your call as the person who knows the most about the use/values of the records. State or municipal officers can contact our record and information management site (
  5. If a limited number of records have been effected, you can dry them using fans (do not try to dry using heat; it will only encourage mold growth).  Individual records that are not too heavily damaged can be hung from clothesline; individual volumes can be stood up and fanned open so the fans can reach individual pages. In some cases records of no intrinsic value or without a legal need to keep in original form may be photocopied when dry and the original disposed.
  6. Remaining records of high value may be considered for freeze drying if their value, volume, and degree of damage are sufficient to warrant the expense. Freeze drying stops mold or other deterioration and allows time to work with the vendor to plan a response in terms of what to do, in what order. We do not endorse any particular vendor. I believe the Department of Buildings and General Services was looking into contracting with some freeze dry services otherwise I have provided some unvetted lists of vendors, the most current one being from the Northeast Documentation Conservation Center.

Again, given the communication disruptions I ask that you help share response information with any of your colleagues who have damage but who are cut off from contact. I would also appreciate learning of any specific questions you may have; I might not have the answer but can try to find out.

August 30: State Archivist Gregory Sanford provided this list of vendors for disaster response supplies.

 August 30: The following list of responders maintained by the Northeast Document Conservation Center. All provide freeze-dry services and will work with you to plan how to work with the records after freezing.

  • American Technologies, Inc., James Gilbert, 800-400-9353 (toll free), 978-305-8734 (cell)
  • Polygon (GSA Contract Holder, for federal institutions), 800-422-6379 (800 I CAN DRY)
  • BMS Cat, 800-433-2940
  • Belfor, 800-856-3333.