Can moldy smells damage documents and photographs in my archives?
Q. Dear Donia,
Our archives flooded but no documents where damaged.There is, however, a moldy smell that I'm afraid will transfer to the documents. Will the smell damage the paper and photographs? Thanks, Jill
A. Dear Jill,
I am sorry to hear about your flood, but glad that no documents were damaged. I am afraid that if you smell mold, there is mold somewhere. It may be that there is some part of your structure that did not get dried quickly enough and now there is a mold problem. You need to have someone come and thoroughly look behind walls and under carpets (and many other places) for mold. This is for the safety of the collections (if there is an active mold outbreak somewhere, it will impact the collections eventually) and the staff. Mold sensitizes people's system and then becomes an allergen, which can lead to serious health problems, so this is an issue you want to be sure to get to the bottom of.
You could contact Nancy Kraft at the University of Iowa just down the road from you for more local advice. She is on the Iowa Museums, Archives, and Libraries Emergency Response Team (IMALERT) and has helped many institutions just like yours.
Good luck, and I hope that you can find the source of the mold and get it taken care of.