Friday, July 1, 2011

More water from on high

WHAT WOULD THE ARCHIVIST DO without plastic? When I heard the steady drip, drip, drip on the ceiling tiles the other day, all I had to do was unfurl some of the plastic stashed in a convenient corner, the same stuff that covered the shelves and cabinets for three months earlier this year.

This is my fourth leak at the Mount since I started in 2008. The Coe Library has very special hydrophysics, in which all water from above ends up in this room.

This is not unexpected, but predictable doesn't mean it's not a serious problem. The public restroom next to the President's Conference Room two floors up has a toilet prone to overflowing. So prone, evidently, that few people bother to report it. It merrily gushes forth for an hour or so before the water reaches me.

I have hopes it'll be fixed -- mostly because there's a big electrical transformer between it and the Archives. If water can be stopped from reaching there, I'll be 'ome and dry, as the English say.

Then there's the temperature. I log the daily high and low along with relative humidity -- both crucial to not cooking the rare books too quickly. (The higher the temperature, the faster the chemical reaction.) Picture my surprise when I returned from vacation recently to see that in one week the local environment had soared to an unbelievable 126 degrees.

On the other end, 65 was much more like it. But that 6% humidity! Pity the poor leather bindings on these old fellows.

These problems are part of the quotidian challenges for archives. A little extreme, perhaps, but all in a day's work. However, the real problem is accepting material for the archives and knowing we may not be able to keep it safe.


  1. You needed to build an ark like Noah last winter, and now you need the patience of Job to endure the continued flood, and from a toilet no less! Water and sewage. Can't even get just a clean drip. We need to man the archives 24/7 like an emergency command center. Fire season is just around the corner, God help us.

  2. Thanks for the chuckle, Paul. I think I'm chuckling anyway. You've given me an idea for my next post: I have some terrific (as in "terror") pix from the Bel Air Fire of '61.