The Duke University Medical Center Archives Receives a Preservation Grant from the North Carolina Preservation Consortium

This past spring, the Duke University Medical Center Archives (DUMCA) received a 2018 North Carolina Preservation Consortium (NCPC) Preservation Grant. This grant provided half the funds to purchase a Nilfisk Museum Vacuum Cleaner for collection care. The other half of the funds came from the DUMCA. The Nilfisk Museum Vacuum Cleaner is a HEPA vacuum. HEPA is an acronym for high-efficiency particulate air. A HEPA vacuum is a vacuum with a HEPA filter. This type of filter works by forcing air through a fine mesh that traps harmful particles caused by mold, dust, frass, and other fine debris. 

Beth assembling our HEPA vacuum


All of the DUMCA’s collections were the focus of this grant. As an archival repository, the DUMCA regularly receives materials from the departments we serve, as well as individuals affiliated with the Duke University Medical Center and Duke Health. Frequently, the DUMCA receives archival materials that need to be cleaned because of mold, dust, frass, and other fine debris. In the past, when mold was discovered in a collection, the DUMCA worked with the Duke University Libraries’ (DUL) Conservation Services to identify and remediate mold. In order to do so, the DUMCA had to physically transport the affected materials 2 miles to campus to DUL Conservation Services because the DUMCA did not have a HEPA vacuum. Having access to our own HEPA vacuum means the DUMCA can now care for our collections onsite and in a timely manner by effectively cleaning our newly acquired materials prior to housing them with the rest of our holdings, creating better access to our collections and a healthier environment for our staff, users, and collections. 

The grant contained 2 goals:

•Goal 1: Purchase a Nilfisk Museum Vacuum Cleaner with funds received from the NCPC.

•Goal 2: Provide critical training to the DUMCA’s interns on how to identify and remediate mold, and how to properly use a HEPA vacuum.

Beth DoyleWe completed Goal 1 with the purchase of the Nilfisk Museum Vacuum Cleaner on May 30, 2018. Goal 2 was completed on September 21, 2018 when Beth Doyle, Head of the Conservation Services Department at DUL, helped us assemble our Nilfisk Museum Vacuum Cleaner and trained us on use. After assembling the HEPA vacuum, Doyle instructed us on the proper settings and way to vacuum, how to attach and use the various micro attachments, how to properly clean mold, and, perhaps most importantly, how to clean up after cleaning moldy or other contaminated materials. If you are wondering, use soap and water on brushes and attachments first and then dunk in isopropyl alcohol. Also use isopropyl alcohol to clean surfaces. Make sure to use at least 91% isopropyl alcohol. As we practiced vacuuming paper contaminated with mold during our training, Doyle stressed that once mold spores are present, they can never be removed, as they are buried too deep into the cellulous. Additionally, once materials become moldy, they are more susceptible to mold again even after being cleaned, as they still have mold spores. This means all mold treatments should be documented, and if there are any environmental issues in the collection areas, these materials should be checked for mold growth.

The DUMCA is grateful for the money awarded to us from the NCPC Preservation Grant because it enabled us to purchase our own HEPA vacuum. We are also grateful to have the use of the DUL Conservation Lab, as well as the expertise of Doyle. Both have been invaluable to us as we strive to create the best environment for our collections at the DUMCA. In the end, this grant will benefit the DUMCA and the community we serve through greater access to our collections. Vacuuming with a HEPA vacuum is the most effective way to clean collections. Now that the DUMCA is in possession of a HEPA vacuum, we can properly clean materials onsite; thus, giving our users the ability to access materials the DUMCA might not have accepted because of condition or would not be made available to researchers because of condition. Additional access will be achieved with prolonged collection lifespans, as well as a healthier environment in the archives for both individuals and collections. 

Archives intern, McKenzie Long  Archives intern, Caroline Waller

To learn more about the North Carolina Preservation Consortium, click here to visit their website. 

This blog post was contributed by Technical Services Head Lucy Waldrop

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