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Hundreds of rare flood-damaged books salvaged by freeze-drying

Victorian conservators are working to save around 400 rare books through freeze-drying treatments, after thousands were destroyed during floods affecting the University of Tasmania’s law library earlier this year, reports the ABC.

More than 4000 books in the university’s law library were destroyed during floods in southern Tasmania in May, but around 400 of the library’s rare books are now being treated in Victoria.

Senior librarian Juliet Beale said many of the library’s copies were irreplaceable. ‘It’s got some really early editions; there’s some books that we have the only copies of in Australia,’ she said. ‘It’s this snapshot of the legal profession when Van Diemen’s Land was first colonised.’

Conservator Kim Morris flew to Hobart from Canberra after the flood, and advised the library that the only way to save the books was to freeze them. ‘Once those books were frozen it bought the people who were working with the collection time to figure out what to do with the rest of the material,’ he said. ‘It’s really about prioritisation because you’ve got limited resources.’

Wayne Spence, who works for a water damage restoration service in Victoria, said that freezing the books stopped any ongoing damage while a decision was made. ‘We then put them in our vacuum freeze-drying chamber. The ice [from the wet books] melts, goes to a vapour and it’s caught within our vacuum chamber machine,’ he said. ‘It then captures the moisture and the pages or documents separate.’

As previously reported by Books+Publishing, the Chifley Library at the Australian National University experienced a similar problem where a team of library staff worked with Morris to save thousands of books damaged by a flash flood. The books were placed in a freezer to stop mould from growing, for up to 12 months, until each item can be individually assessed. The Chifley Library reopened in late March and is currently running an appeal for donations of replacement books.



Category: Library news