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[BKARTS] UH's Hamilton library loss catastrophic


Posted on: Monday, December 13, 2004
UH's Hamilton library loss catastrophic

By Beverly Creamer
Advertiser Education Writer

The Halloween Eve Manoa flood wiped out an estimated 95 percent of the 2.8
million items from the first floor of University of Hawai'i's Hamilton
Library - including 800,000 government documents, books and pamphlets and a
vast collection of microforms, videos, CD-ROMs and DVDs.

This book was frozen in an effort to save it after it was soaked in the
Halloween Eve flood that devastated the first floor and basement of UH's
Hamilton Library.
Rebecca Breyer . The Honolulu Advertiser

Librarians hope they can save about 20 percent of the library's 166,000
maps, including historic maps going back to the 1600s, and almost all of its
91,000 aerial photos.

Government documents on the devastated first floor total about 20 percent of
the library's overall collection.

Of the approximately 33,000 maps saved, about 17,000 are going to a firm in
Texas for recovery and another 16,000 will stay in Hawai'i to undergo years
of work to remove debris and dry them out. Restoration work could take up to
seven years, say librarians.

"In talking to professionals around the world, there hasn't been another
disaster in a library involving mud that anyone can think of," said Lynn
Davis, head of preservation for Manoa campus libraries.

Among the losses is a set of books once belonging to Prince Kuhio that was
published shortly after the Civil War. Called "War of the Rebellion," the
several hundred volumes described the various events of the war.

"We couldn't get to them," said Gwen Sinclair, head of government documents
and maps. "That was in an area where shelving had collapsed and it was just
too dangerous to get in there and retrieve those volumes. They got
completely wet as a lot fell off shelves and onto the floor. There were
heaps of books on the floor in mud."

Also lost are rare congressional materials dating to the 18th and 19th
centuries, including documents about early western explorations. One about
the Fremont Expedition in the 1840s described part of the United States'
expansion toward the Pacific.

"The explorers would go out and then write a report to Congress with all
these beautiful plates of the plants and animals they had encountered and
maps of the region they were exploring," said Sinclair. "These were the
original things issued by Congress. Other libraries have copies but there
are not that many around."

Hamilton also possessed a copy of the original volumes of Admiral Perry's
report to Congress about his expedition to Japan in the 1850s. They, too,
were destroyed.

Christine Takata and Kyle Hamada rinse mud from photos in the Hamilton
Library collection that were damaged by the Manoa flood.
Rebecca Breyer . The Honolulu Advertiser

Many of these rare volumes were gifts from individuals, libraries on the
Mainland, or came from collections originally part of the Hawaiian kingdom.
After the overthrow of the monarchy, they reverted to the territorial
government and were eventually given to the university when it was founded
at the turn of the century as the College of Hawai'i, said Sinclair.

While the volumes themselves are gone, the information itself is not lost,
she said.

"All of these things have been digitized and there are other copies

Davis has just overseen the shipping of three Matson containers of maps,
books and photographs to the Belfor company in Texas that specializes in
cleaning and restoration.

"We spent the past week putting the material we saved into freezer
containers and dividing it up so some was shipped to Texas, especially maps
of Asia and other parts of the world," said Sinclair. "We kept the Hawai'i
and Pacific maps here. The things that are completely irreplaceable we want
to have under our own watchful eye.

"You can wash things and actually get quite a lot of the dirt out of them,"
Sinclair said. "Our preservationist has been doing some test processing of
some of the maps and has been able to do quite a good job. You can see dirt
still but you can see the images and that's the most important.

"We were very lucky that we had lots of volunteers that came and helped us
pull things out before they started to mold."

Davis said a secondary disaster was averted because dehumidification was
begun almost immediately.

"We knew what to do and were able to get local assistance to dehumidify the
library from the beginning so that the remaining five floors weren't lost
and we didn't have a secondary disaster," she said. "If we didn't have
dehumidification immediately we would have had serious mold growth."

Mitchell Parks, national accounts manager for the 2,500-employee Belfor USA
Corp. in Fort Worth. said he has seen this type of damage "on a fairly
regular basis" and the firm hopes to be able to both freeze-dry and clean
the documents within a few months.

When the materials reach Fort Worth, the ones that don't need cleaning will
go into a high-tech 60-foot vacuum chamber that extracts the water, turns it
into vapor and pulls it from the chamber so the paper doesn't get wet again.

"The library did an outstanding job of getting things frozen quickly which
greatly reduced the amount of damage," Parks said.

While 70 percent of the documents going to Belfor only need drying, the
remainder also will have to be cleaned of mud, which is more complicated.

"We're anticipating about 45 minutes per map to get the mud removed," Parks
said. "We're going to thaw them out and take it off while they're still wet.
If you let mud dry on the paper it becomes almost impossible to get off."

Davis said the Texas firm could complete its work in time for the materials
to be available by the fall semester, but she expects the portions done here
to take far longer. Bishop Museum has offered the services of its
conservation staff.

Librarians still don't have a complete list of what's been lost from the
basement. A card catalogue arranged by call number and geographic region for
the maps is still being dried out.

"We have to dry each card individually and put them back in order and then
we can use those to determine what we lost," Sinclair said.

Reach Beverly Creamer at bcreamer@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx or 525-8013.


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