Nearly 6 years after Hurricane Maria devastated the region, the historic documents in the Instituto de Cultura Puertorriqueña (ICP) in Puerto Rico will be cleaned and restored. Similar to many businesses and organizations, it took time for museums and libraries to gain access to funding and find specialized service providers to support them on the island.
During the hurricane the roof to the cultural center was damaged. Over time, water leaks affected the top floor which stored special collections and records of Puerto Rican history and culture. Local managers tried to control the excessive humidity with portal dehumidifiers, but mold started to encroach the space and affect its contents.
In 2020, the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) was supporting ICP, and asked their existing document restoration vendor, Polygon, to assist. Polygon flew out, assessed the damage, and got underway with lining up the resources to process the materials. There were some delays with funding and the release of materials but finally in 2023 a 40-foot cargo container protecting more than 2,000 boxes were shipped to Polygon’s Document Recovery Processing Center.
“The time lapse between the hurricane, the leak, and the time we could start cleaning will have an effect on the condition of the materials. Ideally, we want to be well-informed of the kind of materials and the building before an event happens,” said Matt DeCirce, Director of Client Development.
“Speed helps minimize the damage – and cost. Nonetheless, we are confident we can help bring this collection back to a good state.”
In September 2023, Polygon began work. The specialized 3-phase recovery process started by normalizing the moisture levels of the paper materials in a state-of-the-art drying chamber. Next, the team will neutralize any microbes on the archives in a remediation process. Lastly, technicians will delicately surface clean each page and recreate the housing with new acid-free folders. Items will be placed in archival cases for long-term preservation of the historic collection.
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