Volume 15, Number 1, Jan 1993, p.16

Hurricane Iniki

by Diana Dicus

With less than eight hours' warning, Hurricane Iniki struck the island of Kaua'i and the Waianae coast of Oahu at about 1:30 pm on September 11, 1992. Kaua'i was without electrical power for 40 days, without telephone communication for almost a month in some areas, 80% of the homes were damaged or destroyed, most schools experienced extensive structural damage and book loss, and museums and historical sites suffered structural damage and vegetation loss. Although individual artifacts and collections in museums or historic sites were damaged, a major consequence of the hurricane was the dramatic alteration in collection environment, resulting in widespread problems of mold, corrosion, and infestation.

Kaua'i museum, school, and historic site staffs have done a remarkable job in ameliorating these drastic conditions even though each individual had equally difficult personal circumstances; the island was without electrical power, generators were limited in availability, and frequent rain continued to cause problems for structures with roof and window loss. After restoration of electrical power, fans and dehumidifiers were in short supply or unavailable, air conditioning mechanicals were damaged or blown away; and delivery of collection care and construction supplies is often delayed.

Funding from the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts has made possible three public clinics on Kaua'i and two clinics on the Waianae Coast of Oahu in an effort to reach individuals needing help with the care of personal possessions damaged as a result of the hurricane. Susan Sayre Batton, book and paper conservator, and Diana Dicus, objects conservator, have been conducting these clinics. Betty Kam, Bishop Museum Archives Collection Manager, joined Susan and Diana for one Kaua'i clinic, to advise on care of photographic materials.

Recovery from Hurricane Iniki will take many months for the cultural institutions and historic sites as well as for individuals, services, and commercial establishments. There is a body of information and insight to be gained from our experience with the disaster recovery process for cultural patrimony. As we take in and incorporate the experience, we look forward to discussing and exchanging information with interested curatorial, collection care, and conservation professionals. Pragmatic disaster planning is a story which gives us "chicken skin."

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