Communicate with commercial drying facilities about how boxes containing records are to be packed. Packing will have a large impact on how materials survive transit and dry. Wet records can readily damage a cardboard box if not immediately frozen. Lining the box interior in plastic can help preserve the box and label information on the box exterior. Records will, however, be handled if the vendor requests that plastic be removed to achieve optimal drying. It is possible to leave plastic in place by opening the top of the box to expose the records and allow the moisture to sublimate. Not removing plastic prolongs the length of time needed for drying and may increase final costs. Care exercised in the packing stage inevitably pays off in the condition of the final product.
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.