Volume 15, Number 3, Sept 1993, p.7

AIC, NIC, and Conservators Coordinate Midwest Flood Response

by Barbara Roberts

The extensive and prolonged flooding in the Mississippi and Missouri Rivers' drainage basins has caused $11 billion in damage to date and the estimates are rising daily.

The crest of 47 ft. at St. Louis during the third week of July set a record: about 4 ft. above any other measured flood. One million cubic feet of water per second was travelling at 5.5 mph--double the usual speed.

The crest will move downriver and high water will reach Vicksburg, Mississippi around August 1st and New Orleans August 5th. This is without further rainfall.

The receding waters will leave a contaminated residue that may contain sewage, animal waste, decomposing wildlife, fertilizer, oil waste, garbage of all kinds, rotting organic and inorganic materials, and goodness knows what else.

There is a very real health risk to residents and to those who assist in flood prevention assistance and clean up. Residents have battled the river for weeks, and exhaustion is a fact of life. The flooding has caused havoc to householders and to numerous historic properties. Large museums, archives and library collections have not been damaged, although buildings are flooded in some towns.

Since mid-July, a number of conservators have been working closely with the AIC Board and have prepared an information package for faxing to a long listing of cultural, museum, historical, and conservation associations, alliances, and organizations as well as to AIC institutional members in the region.

The AIC and NIC are collaborating and have sent out a larger mailing, funded by NIC, to midwestern NIC members, all institutions that received the July 21st fax, and the IMS mailing list for the region. This mailing included information on the recovery of materials, a medical alert sheet, AIC and NIC brochures relating to the referral service, guidelines for selecting a conservator, and emergency funding sources.

The response of the conservation community in preparing this information has been wholehearted, and the coordination between the various organizations has been excellent.

The clean-up work is starting, and conservators will no doubt be called upon for advice, assistance, and treatment. The work will be expedited due to the planning and information provided to the public and to cultural institutions. Conservation Materials, Ltd. is preparing a basic water salvage kit, based on information provided by conservators and approved by the AIC.

It is important for the WAAC membership to be informed of the coordinated efforts being made to assist the flood victims and their possessions and to be aware that they will be working as part of a larger team effort if called upon to assist in that region. Anyone going to the area should update vaccinations and be prepared to handle objects that could pose a serious health risk.

Barbara Roberts
2413 Fifth Avenue W.
Seattle, Washington 98119

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