The first 48 hours make the difference
- Don't panic
- Contact as soon as possible an experienced preservation expert
- Take action first on the most important collections
In case of fire, flood or earthquake, audio carriers also run serious risks. The most frequent kinds of damage are warping, chemical decomposition and deterioration of the surfaces.
The losses following extreme situations are due mainly to physical damage to the materials. Many forms of degradation worsen with time. It is therefore important to act as soon as possible after the occurrence of the event and before the first reproduction attempt is made. Otherwise, permanent damage may be caused, and its extent generally exceeds that caused by the event itself.
The recovery and cleaning work should be performed by qualified personnel. After any accident, call in an experienced professional. As soon as the place where the accident took place is made safe from all risks entailing possible injuries to people, remove the audio carriers to avoid them becoming dirty or even more damaged.
If the damage is caused by black wastewater, the personnel involved must wear protective garments. The audio carriers must be transported with caution in plastic containers or cardboard cartons covered with plastic envelopes, keeping them always in a vertical position so as not to subject to stresses the recorded or grooved surfaces.
In case of contamination by liquid chemical substances, do not change the position and do not rotate the audio carriers, as you could contribute to the spread of the liquid. The audio carriers need to be protected against impacts with padding and insulated against temperature oscillations.
Wet audio carriers are particularly subject to degradation. Within just 24 hours mold can form. To avoid general infestation with mold, preserve these materials in a cold and dry environment until the time of the recovery operation. Before drying them, eliminate any impurities. To clean them, use distilled or cold demineralized water only.
With the exception of the markings and other labels, remove any wet paper accompanying material as soon as possible to avoid accumulations of water and the possible formation of mold. In addition to mold, the danger of oxidation of any metallic covering also exists.
Unlike paper, wet audio carriers cannot be frozen or cryodried. However, desiccation through exposure to a heat source should be avoided. Do not reproduce the wet, or already dried, audio carriers without a prior analysis by the technical personnel.
Dry particles, for example soot following a fire, or the dust caused by an earthquake, scatters in the environment and can be eliminated easily with an air jet. Preserve the audio carriers that have been contaminated by these particles in isolated places until the cleaning operations have been completed. Do not eliminate this type of dirt using liquids. Do not open either exposed covers or containers until the risk of contamination by dry particles has been eliminated, as the materials stored inside have not yet been contaminated.
For thorough cleaning of tapes, it may be necessary to remove them from the reel cores. It is possible that it may be necessary to dismount the cores from the reels, cassettes or cartridges to clean or replace them. A tape removed from the reel core becomes particularly fragile. It can be cleaned only by specially trained personnel and it cannot be rewound, reproduced or stored before the cleaning process is completed.
Before storage, reproduction or cleaning, the audio carriers must be acclimatised in a special room, under stable environmental conditions.
In addition to the obvious threats for the audio carriers, in case of catastrophic events, the archiving control of the material is also at risk. The classification markings and the information shown on the labels, on the covers or on the containers may fade away, so you should dedicate particular care to their recovery. If a sound carrier is removed from its container during the cleaning process, affix a note to it documenting the object in a precise way and containing the information necessary for its identification.
The Swiss National Sound Archives is part of the Swiss National Library