On Nov. 7, 1898, the New York Times reported that an enormous explosion had rocked the Capitol Building. A subterranean room exploded after a gas line had been left open. The damage was extensive. Even on upper stories, windows were blown out. Doors were knocked off their hinges. And water, smoke and fire damaged countless historical documents. One badly hit area: the library of the Supreme Court, where about 20,000 legal volumes were housed. Moreover, the records of the Supreme Court from 1792 to 1832 were rendered completely useless. As the Times reported, “The loss on the library and the records can scarcely be estimated in dollars and cents. A million dollars could not replace them, because many of them have no duplicates in existence.”
More than a century later, we have learned much about how to dry wet documents and how to restore smoke damaged books. Yet smoke damage still poses a real threat for businesses and archives.
How Smoke Harms Documents
Smoke cannot penetrate into the heart of books or the interior files of a folder. Smoke damaged books typically sustain only superficial damage. Book edges and covers may be smoke-stained. They may also emit an unpleasant odor. Depending on the state of the books and documents prior to exposure, smoke can also make pages brittle and weak. Additionally, smoke can ruin book bindings that are not in good condition.
Fortunately, by being careful about how your books and documents are stored, you can significantly reduce chances of exposure to smoke.
How Businesses and Archives can Prevent Smoke Damage
- Stack books upright on shelves.
- Books should be stacked tightly so smoke cannot penetrate between covers.
- Store books and documents away from ventilation ducts. Smoke tends to move through buildings via ventilation systems.
- Scan your most important documents to digital storage, so if a calamity hits you will still have access to them.
How Document Restoration Companies can Help Restore Smoke Damaged Documents
As was the case with the 1898 explosion in the Capitol Building, smoke damage rarely occurs in isolation. Water, fire and smoke often assail books and documents all at once. Therefore, the best way to protect your most precious documents is to partner with a provider of professional disaster recovery services before disaster strikes. Here at Polygon, we can help you prepare for the worst through our digital scanning services, archive cataloguing and insurance policy adjustments.
We are also experts in how to reverse damage after smoke and water exposure has occurred. We have spent decades researching how to dry wet documents and how to restore smoke damaged books. Moreover, we’re always looking for better restoration technology. For instance, today’s low-pressure soda blasters allow us to thoroughly clean documents and books that have sustained significant damage from soot, mold and debris.
If your books or important papers have sustained serious smoke damage, it’s best to hire a disaster recovery service for restoration.
[ Photo by: -Tripp-, via CC License ]