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Midland Center For The Arts Tries To Preserve Historical Documents After The Floods

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

You would think being above the flood plain would make your museum safe. But that proved not to be true at the Midland, Mich., Center for the Arts, as president and CEO Terri Trotter found out when she returned to the site for the first time last week.

TERRI TROTTER: What I saw three days ago was nothing but slippery, wet mud.

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Early last week, two dams just northwest of Midland failed. Homes, businesses and the arts center were damaged. Today, when we reached Terri Trotter, her facility was still a mess.

TROTTER: Mud everywhere - I see dried mud across the sidewalk that's been now dried in a mosaic pattern, leading into fresh mud.

CHANG: Midland Center for the Arts is a cultural complex. There is an old Victorian home, a carriage house and a blacksmith shop - theaters, too, and museums dedicated to history, science and art. All weekend long, community volunteers helped chip away at the mess, stripping damp drywall and carpet.

(SOUNDBITE OF TOOL CHIPPING)

KELLY: But Trotter says the big concern was rescuing waterlogged court records and artifacts and photographs before they began to mold.

TROTTER: When documents get wet, the opportunity that you have to preserve them is to get them frozen.

KELLY: Yes, frozen - later, when you thaw them out carefully in a freeze-drying process. So volunteers lugged box after box of wet papers to waiting freezer trucks.

TROTTER: We had 120 volunteers here on-site Saturday, Sunday and Monday, so it was really an amazing mobilization effort.

CHANG: And that work is almost done. And the center, which deals with history, isn't going to let the current situation slip by without recording some of it.

TROTTER: We've been doing some oral histories of what's happening in Midland County as a result of COVID. Now we're expanding that to what's happening in Midland County as a result of the 500-year flood during the COVID-19 pandemic.

KELLY: Terri Trotter of the Midland, Mich., Center for the Arts, preserving history, past and present. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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