Officials attempt to salvage historical documents at Heritage Park
A water pipe burst last week, causing thousands of dollars in damage to historical books, documents and other items in the Franklin House at Heritage Park.
The water break also closed the Franklin House at a time when school students are coming to Heritage Park to learn about Portage County history.
After the burst pipe was discovered, Heritage Park coordinator Anton Anday and volunteers spent up to nine hours some days last week and several hours this week air drying, using dehumidifiers and working with Duraclean in Plover in attempting to save as many pieces as possible.
“We’re trying to salvage as much as we can, but it’s going to take time,” Anday said.
Nearly 3,000 individual pieces including record albums, covers, archival boxes (that cost $8 each because of their thicker walls), medical and household archives, and many school books for the one-room school house were damaged, and in a few cases destroyed.
The items are not insurable, Anday said.
“Once it’s destroyed, it’s gone,” he said, but there may be a need for donations to help offset the cost of Duraclean’s expertise in salvaging the thousands of items.
The value of the team’s time spent and the use of various drying equipment comes to between $5,000 and $8,000, according to owner Tammy Jankowski.
“It’s a lot of repositioning and changing them and then the final step is flattening them out,” Jankowski said. “Some are more brittle than others so if they dry too much too quickly they’re even more brittle. It’s a process.”
Already the four truckloads of items the Duraclean team picked up have taken up two rooms at the business. This week, team members were carefully combining the items into one room now that some are in the final stage of restoration. Still, earlier this week, there were tables and drying racks lined with magazines, pamphlets, and many classical books as Duraclean team members took their time repositioning and paging through the novels and documents
The items were stored in the basement of the Franklin House, which was first obtained by the society in 1983. The house was built in 1857 and has been restored to what the home of a prosperous farmer in 1870 might have.
The building is one of several used in educating local students who visit during field trips on the history of Portage County and who this time of year are learning about the one-room school house, books for which are stored in the Franklin House basement.
“I think it’s so important for the students to see the old school house and that school has changed a lot since 1910,” said Plover-Whiting third-grade teacher Eileen Kelm, who took her class out to Heritage Park last week and was among those who were not allowed to access Franklin House due to the water pipe breaking.
“There are so many different things here and the guides are always so knowledgable when the kids ask obscure questions, they can answer,” said Kelm, who is completing a unit on Portage County history. “It’s so nice for them to appreciate … and they’re always so excited.”