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Archives flood update: Building has reopened

by Brian Zylstra | April 29th, 2014

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The Archives’ research room, minus carpeting after a crew removed it Friday. (Photo courtesy of Benjamin Helle)

WEDNESDAY UPDATE: The State Archives building has reopened to the public. 

The main State Archives building in Olympia remains closed as State Archives employees continue to address water damage that occurred Friday morning.

State Archivist Steve Excell says the Archives facility will reopen to the public Wednesday at 8:30 a.m.

In the meantime, researchers and others can make research requests to Archives via e-mail at research@sos.wa.gov. Researchers can also use the Ask an Archivist online feature to make requests. Other Archives branches throughout Washington remain open.

Excell said the research room at the Archives facility remains closed, so the building’s conference room will be used as a temporary research room. Excell noted that the conference room is small, so he asks researchers to call ahead to reserve space in the room. Researchers are asked to call (360) 586-1492 and leave a voice mail message. Archives staff will call back ASAP. Starting on Thursday, Archives staff will be able to answer live calls at that number.

“We had hoped to reopen to the public Tuesday morning, but we’re not quite there,” Excell said. We appreciate everyone’s patience as we continue cleaning up and getting ready to resume serving people who visit us in person.” 

The flooding happened late Thursday night or early Friday morning when a new water-supply hose coupling failed in the building’s break room on the main floor. Much of the damage was confined to the Archives’ main entry floor. The main research room and several offices were flooded with more than an inch of standing water. Some water made its way through the floor to the underground level below, dripping water on several hundred volumes of records from Southwest Washington, including marriage records. The water reached about three dozen boxes of microfilm in a vault, but the microfilm was not damaged. Property photos and county journal leather-bound volumes were dampened, but not significantly damaged.

After the flooding was discovered Friday at 7 a.m., word quickly went out to the Olympia Fire Department and the building’s landlord (the state Department of Enterprise Services). A private emergency-response contractor, ServPro, removed the standing water and helped Archives and Records Center staff remove and salvage the damaged documents.

Water-soaked carpeting was removed to avoid the possibility of mold or mildew damage. Fans and dehumidifiers ran throughout the weekend to dry out the building’s water-damaged areas.

Excell said Tuesday morning that none of the damaged documents will be ruined.

“The affected documents suffered only slight or moderate water damaged, and they all will be saved.  We really dodged a bullet. If the flood had started Friday night or Saturday, more floors and many more documents would have been damaged.

“This flood really underscores the fact that our current Archives building wasn’t designed to safely house archived documents,” Excell noted. “An ideal Archives facility wouldn’t have underground levels that run the risk of flooding from above.”

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