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>>The books of the flood

image: Campus NewsWhen the city of Hyderabad, India, was flooded last August, the victims included more than topsoil and livestock. Some 26,000 books and 60,000 periodicals stored in the basement of the Sundarayya Vignana Kendram Library were buried in nine feet of mud. The collection, owned by a consortium of universities led by Chicago, includes books, magazines, and journals from the 19th and 20th centuries covering the medicine, history, and culture of South Asia and is one of the largest collections of printed material in the Urdu language.

Cromwell Restoration Ltd., a Vancouver-based property restoration company, has been hired by the consortium to restore the collection. Representatives from Cromwell are teaching Hyderabad librarians how to use new devices such as thermal vacuum freeze drying chambers and molecular sieve drying chambers to clean and dry the damaged materials.

"Many American libraries have had problems with water damage," says James Nye, bibliographer of the South Asian collection at the U of C Library. "And now we're benefitting from the horrible experiences of others in using techniques to restore this collection." The books and periodicals are being stored in freezers to prevent damage from mold and bacteria until they can be cleaned and dried.

Cromwell estimates that the restoration will take about one year, after which the collection will remain in India, as required by the Indian government. The consortium bought the collection in 1996 from a private owner for $50,000 and has been copying the texts to microfilm to be stored at the Center for Research Libraries in Chicago. When the flood occurred, about 2,000 of the books had been recorded on microfilm.-C.S.


  FEBRUARY 2001

  > > Volume 93, Number 3


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