Thank You to All Who Donated (July 2007)
The 200 Friends of the Library who contributed $56,524 toward the cost of recovering 511 boxes of flood-damaged documents:
Cabinet Adopters - $1,000
Half Cabinet Adopters - $500
Carton Adopters - $100-499
Folder Adopters - Up to $99
An open letter from Dr. Alexander Magoun, May 2007
Dear Friends of the David Sarnoff Library,
The nor'easter that many of us have experienced this week resulted in an unprecedented 20 inches of water in our basement storage areas. Since we have never had more than 5 inches before and I had never anticipated more than 12, there are a large number of waterlogged and unique documents from the Princeton Labs, the RCA Lancaster and Broadcast Divisions, Camden and other NJ locations, and Communications in Japan. Some 600 cubic feet of lab notebooks, technical reports, manuals, and some manuscript collections are soaking.
Flood damage at the David Sarnoff Library
(see other photos below)
Despite the flaws of this storage area, floods and water damage are endemic to all archives--national, state, and university. Sarnoff Corporation has pumped out most of the water. After that, time is of the essence to recover these unique collections.
A.P. News coverage of the flooding in NJ, including at The David Sarnoff Library.
Trenton Times story about the flooding at Sarnoff.
Video news clip from WZBN TV-25.
(Select "WZBN News in the menu and look for the story "David Sarnoff Library Flood.)
I called three document freeze-drying specialists recommended by Princeton University and the NJ State Archives for quotes. The winning respondent, Document Reprocessors, will arrive in the next half hour, when its crew will begin repacking the collections, tracking them, and transporting the frozen boxes to its facility in Rochester, NY. There its staff will sublimate the ice and as importantly, flatten the dried documents through its patented process.
Our liability insurance does not cover flooding. Document Reprocessors has estimated a cost of $100 per cubic foot. They have very kindly provided us a 50% professional discount on the freeze-drying and will subtract another 25% of that cost if we can pay the invoice by the time they are ready to return the collections--in 3-4 weeks' time.
I am pleased to say that Sarnoff Corporation will help offset some of this unexpected cost, and that members of David Sarnoff's family have already sent contributions. But these unique collections represent the patrimony of RCA staff creativity in research, development, engineering, and producing the communications and information technologies used around the world. We saved these files in the first place because of their importance in documenting the birth of modern communications, from broadcast microphones to color TV picture tubes, from satellite communciations to the microchips that surround us in cars, computers, and cell phones.
Please help us rescue and restore this world heritage by adopting a report ($25), a carton ($100), or a cabinet ($1000). Your checks, to the David Sarnoff Library, or Paypal donations (use the button below) will help not only preserve what must be preserved, but enable us to move forward with the development of the field trip programming this year that will allow the next generation appreciate what David Sarnoff and RCA's thousands of employees created.
Outpouring of Support Helps Library Save Collections
On Monday, April 16, I waded into the thigh-deep waters to take stock of the nor'easter's effect on the Library's unique RCA collections. I am tremendously pleased and proud to announce that
1. Document Reprocessors returned the boxed collections last week, to a dry, above-ground room graciously provided by our hosts at Sarnoff Corporation. DP's project manager tells me that they recovered 95% of the material (i.e. it's readable). A review of the collections essentially confirmed that report. The 1940s-50s RCA Lab notebooks that were rescued first came off best--RCA's contributions to electronic computing and early transistors, among other fields of innovation, are not much the worse for wear. As I anticipated, the RCA broadcast manuals
suffered worst because of the coatings on some of the covers fused together, but we do have several boxes of culled duplicates that will fill in to some degree. The technical and contract reports from non-Princeton divisions are readable if sometimes warped, and the Lancaster historical files appear to be in good shape.
2. Thanks to generous gifts by 200 people and organizations here and abroad, the David Sarnoff Library met its goal of raising $50,000 to pay Document Reprocessors for its vacuum-freezedrying services on the delivery of the recovered RCA collections. Donors included archivists, collectors, engineers, ex-RCA staff, historians, history lovers, librarians, Sarnoff family members, scientists, and their institutions.
3. We are especially grateful to the IEEE Foundation, for its gift of over $11,000 for the recovery of the RCA divisional reports; to Greg Olsen and the Olsen Foundaton for a gift of $6,000; Thomas F. Peterson, Jr. for his gift of $5,000; and the $1,000 donations by both the Society of American Archivists and the Mid-Atlantic Region Archives Conference, two professional organizations whose members dedicate their lives to the recovery, preservation, description, and promotion of the country's documentary heritage in paper, audio-visual, and digital media at archives and repositories large and small. Finally, we have to thank Sarnoff Corporation for its contributions large and small to the rescue and recovery effort.
My gratitude to all of you who have contributed to this drive thus far is boundless. It has been a remarkable response, representative of the shared interest in preserving a crucial part of our collective past.
In some ways the hard work has just begun. The Library's board of directors has agreed that the funds raised beyond the cost of freezedrying will be dedicated to rehousing the notebooks, reports, and manuals in archival cartons, and organizing them in a compact shelving system, rather than stacking them uncataloged on wooden pallets. We are now working with Sarnoff Corporation on relocating the collections to more permanent, dry, storage space within their facilities. I look forward to informing you of our progress in this next development. Who knew that such a historic disaster could point to such a promising future?
Thank you all again,
Alexander B. Magoun, Ph.D.
Executive Director(top of page)
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