The Report of the Rescue Operation at the Library - Part 2

Rescue operation of books

Published on 6 May 2011

Author(s): Network for Historical Materials/Masakazu Matsushita

Type:  Blog/Situation report

The activities on April 26th

From 8:30am to 6:30pm, the members of the Kobe Network and the Tohoku University of Arts & Design at the Research Centre carried out the rescue operation. Mr. Toru Kibe who was a part-time instructor in this university and had an expertise with conservation apparatus was coincidently here, so we negotiated the outline of emergency measure. We again classified the Japanese and Western style books into some rescue measure pattern that each damaged book would require. We divided the Japanese books into 4 ranks and 3 for the western style books, judging from the condition such as the degree to which they were waterlogged, or the pages were adhered to each other, and whether there were mouldy or not. The detail is as follows;

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Packing into the plastic bags

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No need to seal

[For the Japanese style books]

(A) No need to be urgently rescued because it has been relatively well-dried.

(B) Need to be dried by electric fan because it is still a bit wet.

(C) Need to be peeled off because each page are stuck together.

(D) Need to be urgently rescued and freeze drying operations carried out because they are seriously waterlogged and mouldy.

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Stored in the refrigerator

[For the Western style books]

(A) No need to be urgently rescued because it has been relatively well-dried.

(B) Need to be dried by electric fan because it is still a bit wet.

(C) Need to be urgently rescued and freeze drying operation carried out because they are seriously waterlogged and mouldy.

As the basic emergency measure, we decided to concentrate on carrying out the freeze dry operation, although we had scheduled to execute the large-scale repairing like separating each piece of paper and washing them with water one by one. The reason why we didn’t do that is, firstly it meant that we had to step over the field of the rescuing operation to the field of the conservation, and then we would stray from our purpose which aimed to urgently rescue and temporary preserve. Next, we had not yet inspected whether washing the documents on Japanese papers damaged by seawater could effectively desalinise or not.

Following that, if those materials would be entirely washed with water, they had to be treated by freeze dry operation, and then the refrigerator of the Research Centre might be jammed with its limited capacity. Moreover, there were many Japanese books and documents in which people had hand written with Chinese inks or whose book covers had been made from the coloured papers, therefore we were apprehensive about whether the ink or colour would wash out. Washing with water could be possible after drying, so we started to carry out our operations, and upgraded the (C) or (D) rank condition’s books to (B)rank, and (B)rank condition’s one up to (A).

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Removing the mud on the foredge

As for the (D) rank books and documents, we wiped off mud by the brush or pallet, and sprayed ethanol onto them for sterilization. As a result, the materials were upgraded to (B) rank, and some of them which were still seriously waterlogged were packed in the plastic bags and put into the refrigerator so as to freeze them.

As for the (C) rank materials, they were still adhered to each other, so we removed mud from their edges with pallets, and tried to separate each page or each book. The methods were very simple, such as gradually inserting pallets into the place between each book cover or page, and giving them a little shock and so on. As for the books which could be separated from each other, if they had dried well, we classified them as (A) rank, and if they were still wet, we ranked them as (B). However, some books which would forced to be separated had the risk of being torn if they were left as they were, and we put them into vinyl bags and passed onto the freeze drying operation. With regard to the (B) rank books, after removing dirt by brush and pallet from the edges, we sprayed them with ethanol and sterilised. As a result, the books which advanced to be dried were treated as (A) rank, and some of the wet books were still ranked as (B).

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Separating the coated papers

Among the Western style books, the ones which were made from the coated papers had a risk of being firmly adhered to each other when they were completely dried, so we tried to separate them in the half-dried condition.

As for the hanging scrolls, we carefully opened them so as to let water vaporise, and wiped the dirt by brush. One of them was drawn by Lu Yuanshan(盧元善) who graduated Miyagi Prefectural Agricultural High School and became the politician in Manchukuo. Another one was regrettably lost as its inscription had been written in Chinese ink and had washed away.

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Operation for the hanging scrolls

Reported by Masakazu Matsushita, member of the Network for Historical Materials

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