Is the nation’s collective memory in the water? “Fortunately, the state archives themselves were spared from water damage,” Director of Communications Gertje Ellot told Het Nieuwsblad. However, many of the government archives that we oversee have sustained significant damage. Warehouses in Verviers, Limbourg, Wanze and Eupen were so badly affected that they were inaccessible for more than three days. Archives have also been dumped in some courts.”
dry ice melt
Legal consequences cannot be ruled out. “Most of our records are legal or financial in nature, and they are kept for the burden of proof,” Ellot says. “Most copies are unique, not digital.”
The State Archives are now looking for -20 degree freezers. These should help combat the mold blast, make sure the ink doesn’t linger any longer, and loosen the glue. To prevent water seepage during the final thawing of the archive, companies that use freeze drying on a large scale are also allowed to register.
The question is whether a freeze still makes sense. “The first forty-eight hours are crucial,” says Fellow Els Herbott, Head of the State Archives in Eupen. “It is already too late now. But it all depends on the material and the degree of damage, so who knows.”
At Eupen, Herrebout and colleagues identified the most important 50 meters of the 150 meters from the archive in half an hour last Monday (with light bulbs in dark, flooded cellars without power) and transported them to freezers in Cologne. “If we freeze and dry it in six weeks, we’ll see what we’ve been able to effectively save.”
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