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Flood at State Archives; damaged records will be saved

by David Ammons | April 25th, 2014

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A cleanup crew member removes standing water from the research room in the State Archives building on the Capitol Campus Friday morning. (Photo courtesy of Benjamin Helle)

The main State Archives operation is closed as archivists and a mop-up crew respond Friday to water damage that occurred overnight when a new water-supply hose coupling failed in the building’s break room on the main floor.

Archives officials expect water-damaged documents will be saved. They hope the Archives building will reopen to the public on Tuesday. In the meantime, people can still make research requests to Archives via e-mail at research@sos.wa.gov, officials say. Researchers can also use the Ask an Archivist online feature to make requests.  Other Archives branches throughout Washington remain open.

State Archivist Steve Excell said much of the damage was confined to the main entry floor of the Archives, housed across the street from the Capitol in Olympia. The main research room and offices were flooded with several inches of standing water, discovered when the first staffer arrived at 7 a.m.

Some water made its way through the floor to the next level below, dripping water on several hundred volumes of records from Southwest Washington, including marriage records. Excell said there were about three dozen boxes of microfilm affected in the vault, but the microfilm was not damaged.  Property photos and county journal leather-bound volumes were damp, but not sodden, he said.

Deputy Archivist Terry Badger said the mop-up response was immediate, with 15 or 20 people from the landlord (the state Department of Enterprise Services) and from the Olympia Fire Department. Standing water was shop-vacuumed.  A private emergency-response contractor, ServPro, helped the Archives and Records Center staff remove the damaged documents and began air-drying them. Tarps were placed over the remaining documents in the area. Fans and dehumidifiers will be running through the weekend.

Excell and Badger said they are confident that no records will be ruined.

“Basically, the damage to archival records was minimal,” Badger said. “Water is one of the worst enemies for Archives and paper records.”

“We dodged a bullet,” Excell said. “If the water had run all weekend, there would be far greater damage.”

All staff remained on duty, helping with cleanup, dealing with their regular jobs and making plans for next week. Badger said wet carpets and Sheetrock will have to be removed, since mildew also is an enemy of Archives.

Secretary of State Kim Wyman was kept abreast of the flooding.

“I’m glad the damage was contained,” Wyman said. “I want to thank the staff, the responders from the fire department and DES and everyone who swung into action.”

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