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A Disaster Recovery Plan for the Australian National Herbarium


Once all materials have been stabilised, it is time to take stock. The Emergency Coordinator, the Salvage Controller and the Facilities Coordinator should reflect on what has been achieved during the recovery effort and congratulate all involved. It is time then to plan the process of Restoration of Collection materials and Rehabilitation of the site.

Where the Recovery operation involved staff leaving their normal duties to attend to the urgent needs of the clean up and salvaging operations, it may be appropriate for additional staff to be hired for the Restoration and Rehabilitation phase to enable some staff to resume their normal duties.

5.1 Rehabilitation

5.1.1 Role of Facilities coordinator

After collection materials have been removed, arrange for the affected area(s) to be thoroughly dried and cleaned using professional services if required.

Cupboards, shelving and surfaces should be wiped down with a fungicide such as 'Lysol' to control mould (do not reshelve materials for at least 7 days after fungicidal treatment).

Stabilise Relative Humidity at 47% ± 2% at 20ºC.

With approval from Collections Recovery Coordinator, arrange for the cleaning, repair or replacement of damaged items such as carpet, cupboards, shelving and other furniture.

Alert Collections Recovery Coordinator about the need for any internal building reconstruction work.

Carpeting and underfelt must be thoroughly dried to prevent mould (this may necessitate lifting and removing the carpet by professional carpet layers). Smoke odour may also need to be removed by professional cleaners.

Assess the extent of damage to the area and estimate the monetary value of the rehabilitation process. The Collections Recovery Coordinator should be informed of this value, for insurance purposes.  

5.2 Restoration

5.2.1 Role of the Salvage Controller(s)

Firstly, when all materials have been stabilised, the Salvage Controller(s), in conjunction with the Conservator, should assess the damage to the Collection and arrive at a monetary estimate of the damage to the collection. The Collections Recovery Coordinator should be informed of this value, for insurance purposes.

The Salvage controller(s) should then initiate and oversee the long term Restoration of collection materials.

5.3 Restoration Procedures

The restoration of the Collection(s) will include:

Ambient Air-Drying Facility

Initially, materials in the ambient air-drying facilities will be just dry smoke damaged materials, artworks, large format materials (eg maps) and possibly a small numbers of cryptogam botanical specimens.

Conditions in the air-drying facility should be

Materials in the air-drying facilities must be monitored for the development of mould. Any outbreak of mould should be treated by adjusting conditions in the air-drying room.

When air-drying is complete. The following restoration procedures should be performed:

Treatment of Artworks and Large Format Material

Asses whether professional treatment is required. If no extra treatment is required, return to original location.

Treatment of smoke-damaged material

Damage may be in the form of charring, soot deposits or smoke damage. If charring is slight, pamphlets and similar items maybe photocopied, while books and other bound items may be trimmed and rebound, and herbarium specimens may be remounted. If in doubt seek advice from the conservator.

Treatment of ambient air-dried cryptogam specimens

See ‘Wet Cryptogam Specimens’ below for detailed cryptogam drying procedure.

Warm air-drying facility

Initially the only materials in the warm air drying facility will be fungal specimens, if at all. See ‘Wet Cryptogam Specimens’below for detailed cryptogam drying procedure.

Treatment of Frozen Materials

After material has been frozen below –20ºC for at least 48 hours (to retard the growth of mould) and as air-drying and warm air-drying space becomes available, the restoration of frozen materials can commence.

Wet Cryptogam Specimens

If numbers of wet cryptogam specimens were not too numerous to process for drying in one day, specimens will have been frozen. The procedure for drying cryptogam specimens after freezing is essentially the same as for drying specimens immediately at the time of the disaster.

The procedure for preparing cryptogam specimens for drying the same for all cryptogam specimens, except that fungi should be warm air-dried while bryophytes, lichens and algae should be ambient air-dried. The only difference in the drying procedure is the location to which materials are taken for treatment and the application of diffuse heat to fungi during the drying process. The drying procedure is given below:

Note: if warm air-drying fungi in ovens or dryers, the heat must be very low – much lower than for vascular plants, or the fungi will cook.

When samples have been successfully dried their packaging should be inspected and any deficiencies tended to.

If original packaging was too damaged and therefore discarded prior to drying, a new box or paper envelope and labelling must be prepared using information salvaged from labelling on the original packaging.

Samples should be placed in a polythene bag inside the specimen container, with the top of the bag folded over and the Collectors Number written in permanent ink on the upper edge of the bag.

Labelled samples should then be frozen prior to return to the Herbarium, for insect control purposes.

Wet Herbarium Specimens

Herbarium specimens should be assessed for their condition. If they were just wet, prior to freezing, and are not muddy or mouldy, and if the flimsies and labels are not too damaged, the specimen can be dried in its mounted format. Remove any loose components and labels from their bag if the bag is plastic. Place specimen and loose components within folders in newspaper and cardboard and dry in a plant press as per usual plant-drying protocols. When dry, place any loose components in a new plastic bag. Return specimen to herbarium.

Muddy Herbarium Specimens

If specimen folders are muddy, however, or if the label is damaged, it is preferable to remount the specimen. The following steps should be taken:

Mouldy herbarium specimens

People with a history of allergies should not be handling or cleaning mouldy items. Those handling mouldy materials should wear gloves and a facemask.

Mouldy herbarium specimens should be treated with alcohol and then warm air-dried according to the following procedures:

Treatment of Other Frozen Materials

Mouldy or Muddy Materials

Upon removal from the freezer, other mouldy materials, aside from herbarium specimens, should be air-dried. Mould should not be removed from material while it is wet, as it will smear. When the material is dried it should be taken outside on a clear, windy day and the mould brushed off.

Mud is dealt with in a similar way; when the item is dry, mud can be carefully brushed off.


To air dry wet books, interleave paper towelling between pages, place books upright on a towel on a bench, sitting open slightly. Direct oscillating fans onto pages. Remove wet towelling and replace with fresh towelling as necessary.

Rolls of large format material

Any rolls of large format material (eg maps) that have been frozen should be recovered by conservators experienced in handling large format material.

Contaminated Materials

Treatment of any contaminated water-soluble material will need to be conducted by a conservator.

Treatment of Physically Damaged Materials

Physically damaged materials should be assessed on a case-by-case basis to determine if professional restoration is required.

5.4 Post-Emergency Re-Evaluation

A detailed post-emergency assessment should be carried out to determine the extent of loss and damage and to determine successes and failings. All members of the team should have input to the post-disaster assessment process. A written report should be produced including details on the following:

The report should make recommendations for any improvement of Collection management procedures deemed necessary and propose changes to the Disaster Plan where necessary. The report should have a summary of lessons learnt that can be made available for other institutions to learn from eg via publishing in an appropriate botanical or library newsletter.

The area affected should be monitored for at least one year after the event to make sure no mould has grown - if detected, consult the conservator.

Emergency bin consumables used during the recovery operation should be replaced.


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