By Jackie Cain
My week at the Eiteljorg started like any other, with a coffee, a bagel, and a mountain of emails to sort through. However, my day quickly fell into a fit of chaos when a co-worker approached me with the words that every collection worker dreads hearing, ‘I think we might have a leak’.
I followed them into the material storage room to find that they were correct, and a ceiling tile had caved in due to water damage. My first thought was relief, relief that the leak was in an area with no stored artifacts. However, my second thought was panic, panic that the water had spread through several thousand dollars’ worth of archival materials. We instantly sprinted to our collections manager’s office to inform them of this tragic news, and the entire Eiteljorg team set to work to clear out the area. By the end of the day, we had cleaned out the area and salvaged any materials we could. In the end, we were most thrilled to confirm that no artifacts had been damaged in this crisis.
However, this experience taught me a valuable lesson that I don’t think I would have learned otherwise. In many of my classes and internships there has always been a focus on creating a disaster preparedness plan. These plans act as a to-do guide for how to handle the situation if your collection is damaged due to a disaster such as fire, tornadoes, and of course floods. However, these documents tend to focus on how to handle a situation that affects items in the collection, but there is so much more to a collections department then the items that are accessioned.
Through this experience I learned the importance of creating a plan that handles all aspects of a stored collection, from collections items to stored records, and even stored materials. Having a precise plan of action in place can help people on site handle the situation without causing further damage.