Blue hats of the culture carabinieri salvaging flood damged ancient books and manuscripts

Ancient books frozen to salvage them from flood damage

By Region Culture News North-east Italy

A number of ancient books and manuscripts are now in industrial-sized freezers at -25C in a bid to rid them of excess water. The documents were affected by the deadly floods last week in Emilia-Romagna and Le Marche.

Books and manuscripts, some dating back to the 16th century, are being stored in freezers in an effort to salvage them. Volunteers have been moving the books and documents which became submerged in water and mud after floods hit Emilia-Romagna.

Orogel, a company which specialises in frozen food, has made their freezers available. “We usually use this process for ripe fruit and vegetables within three hours of harvesting, but I never expected this rapid procedure could also be useful for our literary heritage,” the company’s president, Bruno Piraccini, told Ansa news agency. “I received this surprising request from the library of Forlì and we are happily reorganising space in our warehouse.”

Piraccini said he was providing his company’s equipment free of charge “for the good of the community”.

“Our factory is used to maintaining the best quality,” he said.

How does freezing the books help?

Some of the most severe damage occurred in the basement library of the Catholic seminary of San Benedetto in Cava, a hamlet in the Forlì province. The building was deluged with water.  Archives belonging to Forlì town hall were also affected.

Ancient books considered salvageable from the flooded Trisi library in Lugo were also placed in plastic bags before being transported in airtight boxes to the freezers in Cesena. It is expected that more books will arrive from other parts of the region.

Freezing the books and documents will help remove excess water, thereby preventing further damage. They will then be dried and restored where possible. Time is of the essence, with freezing needing to take place as soon as possible.

Damage to other cultural heritage

There has also been significant damage to Italy’s cultural heritage. 75 monuments, 12 libraries and six archaeological sites have been affected by the floods.

Lucia Borgonzoni, an undersecretary at the ministry of culture, said the government had set aside €6m (£5.2m) in recovery funding.

“Operations to secure historic heritage have been under way since Tuesday,” she said. “At the same time, warehouses are being found to store the material being recovered.”

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