On Monday, January 13, 2014, a minor disaster struck the Center for Adventist Research. The first sign of trouble was the wet spot in the carpet that was discovered by Camille Clayton, one of CAR’s employees. Suspecting there might be a leak from the nearby restroom she investigated to see where the source of the water might be. After coming around to the exhibit area she noticed the carpet wet on the inside of the wall as well as along the length of one of the display cases. At that point she called Anne Oyerly, James White Library Building Manager. It was discovered that there was water dripping into the display case from the top, and was causing the items on display to become wet. That particular display was entitled, “The Bible Through the Ages,” and contained some valuable items from our Bible collection.
Immediately after the leak was discovered the display area became a very busy place. The items on display were removed to prevent further saturation. At the same time photographs were being taken to show the condition of the books and the extent of the leak. Simultaneously, Anne Oyerly called Allen Wellborn at Custodial Services to ask him to come help with the clean-up.
After Allen arrived at the library he and Anne looked in the men’s restroom and custodial closet, both of which are relatively near the area where the carpet was wet. They didn’t find any leak in either place so they made their way to the CAR exhibit area. Anne had checked in the exhibit area a little earlier and hadn’t noticed any wet carpet, but by the time she and Allen arrived together water had leaked past the darker blue border of the carpet and was much more noticeable. Ann reported that “Allen and I looked at each other, and then saw the water dripping in the case. At that point we knew we had a major problem. He lent me his phone, we tried a couple calls that didn’t go through, and so I dialed Plant Administration. Dick Scott was out, so I asked Patty Hinman [Plant Administration receptionist] to let him know we had an emergency in the Library, in the CAR museum. (He came almost immediately).” Jim Ford, CAR Associate Director, was notified just after the leak was discovered. He in turn called Merlin Burt, CAR Director, who returned to the office to help coordinate the recovery effort.
By the time Dick Scott arrived (which seemed like it was only minutes after the flood had been discovered) the area was busy with activity. Jim Ford was trying to work as carefully and as quickly as possible to remove the Bibles from the display area and get them ready to be taken care of to try to ensure as little damage as possible. Some of Anne’s student workers were helping with this. Allen brought a large wet vacuum and was removing the standing water from the bottom of the display area. Katy Wolfer was busy documenting the event with photographs while trying to not be in the way of those who were working in the area. Anne called Larry Onsager, the Dean of the Library, to ask for advice on how to handle the situation, and he referred her to Notre Dame Architecture Library. Notre Dame had recently experienced a somewhat similar situation, so they were very helpful in reviewing some basic conservation steps with Anne. They had their head conservationist call back as soon as possible, about 15 minutes later, and she talked with Merlin Burt about how to care for the damaged items and where some items could be sent for professional conservation. Anne then talked to Dining Services to arrange to have the wet Bibles in deep freeze until they could be cared for.
Bibles damaged in the water incident included 14 Bibles. Five were sent to The Conservation Center in Chicago, Illinois. These five Bibles included an original 1553 Tyndale Bible; a tenth century AD Greek codex (it was sent to restoration in two parts as a single sheet had become loose from the binding); a 1617 3rd edition of the King James Version of the Bible; a facsimile of the Codex Vaticanius; and an 1840 Douay Version of the Bible. The Greek codex is especially worrisome as the text is on vellum or animal skin. This material is severely affected by water so success of rehabilitating it is in question.
Eventually, it was discovered that the cause of the flood was a copper pipe that hadn’t been properly secured when the Library was built. It had been allowed to touch concrete and the lime in the concrete had reacted with the copper which corroded over the years. When the water lines were worked on during a recent remodeling project, the pipe, weak from corrosion, broke open and slowly leaked water that followed the path of least resistance; ultimately finding its way to our display case via the ventilation system conduit. Plant Services stopped the water flow and Allen and his Custodial crew did most of the cleanup, along with help from Anne’s student workers.
It is very unfortunate that we experienced this disaster, but we can be thankful in all things. We are thankful that it was clean water that leaked, that it happened during the day when people were around to deal with it, and we are thankful for the great team of people from all over campus that worked together so quickly to minimize the damage as much as possible.
Wendy Halder, Collections Associate / Enjoys learning how to quilt in her Women’s Ministry group at church.