The Preservation Handbook Online

Table of Contents

I. Preservation
II. Assessment
III. Collection Assessment
IV. Agents of Deterioration
V. Monitoring collections
VI. Materials
VII. Storage
VIII. Conservation
IX. Disaster Planning
X. Housekeeping
XI. Resources / Suppliers
XII. Preservation Grants

Disaster Planning

Test the plan
Train employees and volunteers
Identify emergency / disaster recovery contacts
Contact insurance and legal representatives to identify procedures and responsibilities
Keep plan up to date

Plan should:

-identify high risk areas in proximity and building structure through assessment
-identify collection vulnerabilities found during collection assessment;
-steps to reduce the risk to collection; preservation
-formulate a response team - names and numbers of key contacts for departments, institutional authorities; emergency response professionals and support staff for around the clock rescue in the early stages.
-identify resources beyond immediate area; location where minimal service can be restored; offsite location; processing facility; freeze drying, etc.
-document salvage priorities that reflect collection development policy and institutional mission; this will ensure prioritized rescue efforts
-include recovery techniques
-be accompanied by a crash kit with camera
-be actively practiced and refined
-outline administrative components: funds, public relations, recorder, coordinator, work crew leaders.

The disaster recovery director: ensures human safety; leads the recovery effort; makes final decisions; holds keys to storage; initiates lines of communication with police, fire, and insurance; determines plan of action; determines methods and procedures for salvaging material; and has the authority to disperse funds.

Two teams should be assembled for this task - A prevention team and a recovery team.
The prevention team should assess and measures risk in order to establishes priorities for the collection and provide training to the supporting staff

The recovery team should have team leaders that:

Planning will require time and critical thinking. The key is to be able to respond quickly with clearly defined priorities that can be found in the collection development policies. Phone numbers should be current to facilitate quick contact, quick response. Multiple ways to contact team leaders to notify them of a disaster should be readily available.

Recovery has three phases: notification, assessing the situation and damage, and beginning rescue and recovery phase. Fast response will minimize object deterioration.

Notification can be handled through phone trees, and emergency communications devices such as pagers, cell phones, and two-way radios. Building should be stabilized and damaging agents contained and removed. Environmental conditions within the building should be stabilized. Emergency management facilitators can be used to coordinate recovery efforts. External facilitators contract's should be comprehensive and identify vendor affiliations. Contractors with knowledge of library, archival, and museum operations are encouraged. Treatment options should be researched and identified prior to an actual disaster.

Recovery will rely heavily on people with expertise in conservation, library/archival process; and automated systems that handle bibliographic and other data. Technical services and museum registrars plays a crucial role in the recovery process and the return of salvaged and replacement items into the collection. They should be deeply involved in planning the recovery process.

A disaster resource book should be organized with local, statewide, regional, and national contacts for different areas of response and recovery. Include information on companies that handle:

cleaning supplies
packing out supplies
commercial binding and rebinding
exterminators / fumigation
mycology assessment
freezer storage
refrigerated warehouse
vacuum freeze drying
professional conservation for different medians within your collection
migration specialists for print and digital
smoke / odor removal
fire and water recovery
dehumidification and vacuum drying

*Manual should be reviewed annually.

Websites that provide disaster recovery information:

American Institute for Conservation (AIC)
Conservation OnLine
Emergency Management Guide - FEMA
FEMA - alphabetical index
Chicora Institute - Fire Recovery
AIC - Textile Recovery
Syracuse University - Recovering sound and audio materials
Library of Congress - Emergency Drying Procedures for Water Damaged Collections


The Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel created by the Heritage Emergency National Task Force is an excellent resource for all historical collections.
For purchase information: