Lather, Rinse, Repeat

After all the time and physically-demanding effort that went into drying out the materials we salvaged from last week’s flood, it feels mighty silly to be deliberately getting some of them them wet again.  However, we’ve decided that’s the best course of action for approximately 300 hand-drawn architectural plans for the original Veterinary Medicine Facilities on the Iowa State University campus.  The drawings are severely cockled after air-drying from their dousing in flood waters, and our first priority is to flatten them.  The drawings will be digitized, and the originals will be archived.

The impregnated parchment paper supports would take a substantial amount of time to humidify.  Furthermore, many of the documents are streaked with mud, and all of them have been saturated with foul-smelling, potentially bacteria-infested flood water.  While a thorough sterilization isn’t possible for us, we can rinse some of the nasties away in a clean bath, and then flatten the documents for scanning and storage.

Our Camberwell-trained lab volunteer, Martha, assists me in removing drawings from the bath.

We’re washing the drawings in recalcified, deionized water in batches of ten, and drying them between extra-thick blotter under weight.  By washing one batch per day every morning, we’re able to incorporate this work fairly comfortably into our normal lab workflow.  The aftermath of this disaster, like many others, involves a balancing-act of immediate response where imperative, and a long-term, steady progression through prioritized goals.


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