US librarians at Yale University Library sent the most complete known collection of late 1980s and early 1990s Cambodian newspapers for freeze-drying in an attempt to salvage them from water damage caused when a burst pipe triggered the sprinkler system.
Approximately 3,000 titles from the library’s Southeast Asia collection got wet when heat from the burst steam pipe triggered the fire prevention sprinkler system Jan 7, according to a Yale press release.
The damaged papers, which include editions of Kampuchea newspaper from 1986 to 1992 and approximately 58 titles from the Untac period and the years immediately following, are currently at a freeze drying facility in Chicago, Illinois, said Rich Richie, South and Southeast Asia Collections Curator at the library.
Only the Cambodian newspaper collection—not yet microfilmed—is considered irreplaceable, Richie wrote in an e-mail last week.
“The basic process involves flash freezing the wet library material and then drawing off the ice crystals with a strong vacuum, without letting the material thaw,” Richie wrote.
“The procedure is repeated until all the water is drawn off while the material is in a frozen state. We expect the process to take six to eight weeks.”
Documentation Center of Cambodia Director Youk Chhang said he believes that most if not all of Yale’s damaged collection would likely be available at the Cambodian National Archive or National Library.
Information Minister Khieu Kanharith, who was editor of the newspaper Kampuchea in the 1980s, said that his paper was kept in the National Archives, but he was too busy to comment further Sunday.
Youk Chhang added that he was relieved to hear that Yale’s Cambodian Genocide Program records were not damaged. That collection includes microfilm of most of DC-Cam’s archives.