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Books stored in an unheated building

This topic contains 7 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  David C 1 year ago.

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  • #137476

    David C
    Participant

    We have roughly 350 books (1800-1930’s) on shelves in a one-room School House Museum (Upstate NY). Most of the books have been there for about 15-20 years. The building is not heated in winter and is not open to the public. It has many windows to let sunlight in so the building does get warmed up just a bit (by warm I mean maybe 20 degrees during the day).

    I’ve become concerned about keeping the books there during the winter. The cold _might_ be good for the books (correct me if I’m wrong). I would like to move the books into our other Museum which is heated (55 degrees) and open on Saturdays but we have no room. The books take up about 35 cubic feet of space. Might it be okay to keep the books in the cold School House if we raise the bookcases off the floor? Should we put out mice bait (never did that before) or will the bait only attract mice?

    David Cranston, Curator
    Hadley-Lake Luzerne Historical Society
    52 Main St – PO Box 275
    Lake Luzerne, NY 12846

  • #137477

    Marc Williams
    Participant

    David,

    The best answer to your questions is past performance. Did you notice active mold on the books in past winters (be sure to distinguish between mold that occurred in the summer)? Have you data logged RH in past winters? And if so, what levels did you notice? Have you seen evidence of mouse problems? If so, was there any damage to collections?

    The cold is not an issue and in fact forwards preservation. The only issue with the cold is that it could cause a rise in RH that could exceed 60%. However, the cold inhibits mold growth. There are some species that will not grow at low temperatures. Generally in the winter, even raising the T 15 or 20 degrees above ambient outdoors may be sufficient to keep the RH below 50%. Your solar heating may be adequate to do this. However, does this light damage your collections, including the books? This could be worse than the benefit of slightly lowering the RH.

    If you can answer these questions, we conservators can better advise.

  • #137510

    David C
    Participant

    Kind of hard to answer your questions, but they are all valid questions. The books on the bottom shelf of one bookcase appear to be moldy, but we can not tell if the mold is recent or cumulative from several years. This bookcase is next to a large row of windows.

    RH has not been recorded at any time, although it should be recorded.

    We have seen very little evidence of mouse problems. Edges of a few books look chewed, although the books may have been received in that condition. Our Accession records make no mention of this. We do not own the building. The maintenance dept of our town, who owns the building, opens and cleans the building in the spring. They were contacted earlier but they do not recall if there were or were not mouse droppings.

    Sunlight definitely damages paper. We probably should at least move the bookcase from next to the window to the far side of the room away from the sunlight.

  • #137512

    Jen Hunt Johnson
    Participant

    Hi David,

    I would agree with the issues Marc has already raised. The cold temperatures are a positive, but I would urge you to find out more about the humidity levels.

    I would be concerned about any potentially moldy items. I am not sure what your resources are for having these cleaned, but if they look problematic to you, can you isolate them from other clean materials for now?

    The other suggestion I would make is to document the conditions as they currently are, so that you can start to make comparisons in the upcoming seasons. Documentation could be as simple as a few written notes, and some pictures of noted areas of concern (suspected mold, chewed areas, overall space). The important thing is to be consistent, and be sure you include details that will easily help you return to the specific area. Date and time of the documentation, item number, title, or other description for a representative book that you want to return to, etc. Implementing a pre and post season check might help best direct your efforts.

  • #137514

    David C
    Participant

    Thanks Jen (and Marc). Yes, we can isolate some of the books that appear to be moldy. For some of the other books that look questionable we’ll take a few close up photographs and document the conditions.

    As for measuring the RH, I’ll probably get a simple hygrometer. I know they are not that accurate, but I’ve calibrated them before in a plastic bag with water and lots of salt. Even after calibrating they are not that accurate. The building has no electric. Alternatively, I may get a battery operated remote sensor. I wish we had the finances to get a hygrometer that recorded the readings every few hours.

    David

  • #137522

    Marc Williams
    Participant

    David,

    I see that you are closed for the winter. If you provide me with a mailing address, I will send you a Hobo data logger. Free software is available on the manufacturer’s web site. http://www.onsetcomp.com/products/software/hoboware

    Marc

  • #137524

    Marc Williams
    Participant

    I am not sure if you have my direct email on this site. It is acc@conservator.com.

  • #137526

    David C
    Participant

    Marc,

    I have sent you an e-mail from our Historical Society’s account (Kinnearmuseum@gmail.com).

    David

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