We attempted to simulate two levels of wetness to approximate a real-life situation. All of the boxes were allowed to absorb standing water for a 24-hour period. An additional 8 liters of water were poured over half of the boxes to simulate a sprinkler discharge or burst pipe.
A number of variables may have influenced our final results. The number of pages within bound volumes, pamphlets, and folders varied, as did media. The composition and condition of record substrates were also different. Efforts were made to make the sample sets as similar as possible, but they were not identical.
Differential wetting may have occurred as uneven water absorption of the original corrugated cardboard boxes was observed. Boxes varied in board composition and age, though all were in sufficient condition to support records when dry.
All wet boxes were handled in the same manner prior to leaving the Archives. Yet, we do not know the conditions or duration of overnight transport to the vendor. We also do not know how boxes were handled once they arrived at the vendor’s facility. Had the materials thoroughly thawed? Were the boxes crushed or misshapen from transit? Were boxes immediately placed into a freezer or did they sit for a period of time thawed and wrapped in their plastic? These unknowns may have damaged items before they underwent the commercial drying processes.