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KDLA offers document preservation guidance following floods in eastern Kentucky

From the Department for Library and Archives
Disaster recovery is a long-term process. Please take time to read guidance below and take a few mitigation steps for your records. Even if no immediate damage is noted at the time, records might still be at risk.

The Kentucky Department for Library and Archives provides assistance and guidance for records preservation and damage mitigation for agency records, especially following natural disasters like the recent flooding in eastern Kentucky.

While water damage will understandably impact county documents, other factors can also harm records and documents according to KDLA’s Rebecca Halbmaier, who has been reaching out to agencies with assistance dating back to the tornados from late 2021.  

Aside from water issues, Halbmaier suggests officials should be on the lookout for documents affected by extended periods of power loss that can alter the climate a records storage area.

“There is most likely some dampness or moisture in those records and left unattended, that damage will quickly multiply and possibly lead to lost records or mold/mildew,” Halbmaier said. “Records may have been moved to buildings or rooms with less ideal records climates.

“I suggest looking at records in your office to determine if damage is visible, noting things like damp boxes, noticeable mold or mildew, damp smells, obvious changed in humidity, changes in paper records (crinkled, fading, running or smudged ink, etc.),” Halbmaier added. “If you have immediate needs, notice any of this damage, or even if you are unsure, please contact us.”

While preserving records is vital, Halbmaier cautions that those people responsible to records should not resort to dangerous measures to protect records.

“Their safety and the safety of their staff is so much more important than any records,” Halbmaier said. “Wet records can so easily become dangerous – especially with continued humidity and heat. Any and all health and hazard precautions should be taken. (KDLA is) are available to provide any support, including record recovery and to assess next steps.”

Here’s some recommendations from KDLA for immediate action with other valuable resources below.

  1. Open box lids to allow for air flow.
  2. Remove records from wet boxes.
  3. Try to spread out the boxes or records so water damage does not move from one box to another.
  4. Turn on a dehumidifier to control the moisture level.
  5. Make sure the records are stored in a cool, dry environment.
  6. Freeze any vital, permanent, needed records to stop water damage and mold and mildew growth.

Save Your Family Treasures | FEMA.gov. This FEMA site offers guidance to help individuals and families salvage their treasured family belongings following a disaster. The site includes the two-page fact sheet Salvaging Water-Damaged Family Valuables and Treasures (fema.gov), which is available in multiple languages. The site also contains step-by-step instructions to help survivors stabilize their treasured photos, documents and papers, and books and buy time to make an educated decision on further treatment and handling of family mementos.

Resources for the Public | Smithsonian. This Smithsonian Cultural Rescue Initiative site offers the above guidance along with additional how-to resources.

The Northeast Document Conservation Center website offers preservation leaflets for different records formats. There are leaflets that specifically deal with air-drying records.

Contacts
Nicole Bryan, Local Records Branch Manager – nicole.bryan@ky.gov – 502-564-1745
David Atha, East Regional Administrator – david.atha@ky.gov – 502-234-4292
Beth Williams, NC Regional Administrator – bethh.williams@ky.gov – 502-750-1913
Andrew Preston, SC Regional Administrator – andrewd.preston@ky.gov – 502-330-4986

Kentucky Association of Counties
400 Englewood Drive, Frankfort, KY 40601