Disaster Recovery

Disaster recovery for archives, libraries and museum deposits

Fratielivi is the only Italian company with two decades of experience in disaster recovery for archives, libraries and museum repositories. The company can boast a series of successful interventions, both in the case of large natural and/or man-made disasters – such as in Turin in 2000, in Aulla in 2011, in Bastiglia and Bomporto in 2014, in Genoa in 2014, in Venice in 2019, in the Marches in 2022 – and in the case of deterioration of the collections attributable to unsuitable environmental conditions (such as excess humidity, including water infiltrations, poor ventilation, copious deposits of dust, etc.) which cause fungal contamination, infestation of insects, rodents and birds.

In the event of accidents and damage to the archival and book heritage, Fratielivi is able to send its rescue team to the site within 12 hours of the request for intervention. To recover and immediately secure the endangered collections, the team operates on the disaster site using qualified personnel, consolidated procedures, innovative technologies, cutting-edge machinery.

The recovery and the rescue

The recovery and rescue action is conducted in compliance with the guidelines issued in 2014 by the Directorate General of Archives – Mibact. These guidelines – whose drafting was contributed by Pietro Livi, the president of Fratielivi – define the methods of intervention and organization. They also indicate the main actors who must operate on the site of the disaster.

In accordance with the emergency plan (whether present or absent), spaces and groups of operators involved in the recovery of damaged material are organized immediately.

This recovery must be carried out under the banner of safe handling – also for the operators – of the documents and papers to be rescued, and carried out in a very short time to prevent the proliferation of molds and fungal spores.

For this reason, having identified the pieces and drawn up a list, the Fratielivi team proceeds, through the use of specific control tools, with the classification and distribution of the material to be saved based on the severity of the damage suffered. The material is then housed in transparent polypropylene bags. It is then placed in special insulating containers to undergo immediate pre-freezing with the CryoSafetySystem.

Immediate blocking of molds and fungal proliferations with the CryoSafetySystem

Once recovered, wet documents or books must be frozen as soon as possible in special containers or freezer sheds to interrupt the physical deterioration and the fungal proliferation processes that are triggered following contact of the paper material with water. In fact, mold tends to develop on wet documents and books in less than 48 hours. Some fungal spores can proliferate even faster.

The speed of handling and transfer of the material for freezing is therefore crucial in decreeing both the extent of the damage, the overall costs of the recovery intervention and its degree of success. Often this speed is affected by logistical, organizational, insurance, bureaucratic and budget obstacles.

To overcome these problems, Fratielivi has created the CryoSafetySystem: the first autonomous system for the on-site parameterized and modular pre-freezing of large quantities of archival material and books damaged by water.
Thanks to this technology, which does not require the use of machinery, systems and sources of energy, Fratielivi is able to intervene throughout the Italian territory to put the endangered collections in immediate safety in order to start them for handling in conditions of temperature already stably below zero. In this way, the physical deterioration of the materials and the development of mold and fungal proliferation are stopped well before the necessary freezing.

With the CryoSafetySystem, in addition to respecting the timing functional to the success of the intervention, the overall costs are reduced. Both because the transfer of material to containers or freezer sheds can take place with greater peace of mind and be optimized in terms of timing and quantities. Both because the preventive stabilization of the temperature before and during transport reduces the extent of the damage induced by the biological, physical and chemical reactions produced by the water.

Safe handling and transport

For the safe handling and transport of archival and book assets damaged by catastrophic events and to be sent for freezing, Fratielivi has a own fleet and a wide range of suitable equipment and means of transport – including pallet trucks, forklifts, roll trolleys, bins of various sizes and types, vans with tail lifts, etc.

Thanks to a series of agreements active throughout the Italian territory with market leading logistics operators, Fratielivi is also able to guarantee the taking charge and transfer of compromised goods even in environmental situations that may requireuse of special means – such as mobile cranes of different types and sizes -, the transport by water, or the Ground transportation – with media of different sizes at a controlled negative temperature.

This rich range of solutions, which always includes the ability to activate in less than 24 hours specific nail-to-nail policies, allows Fratielivi to operate for the transfer of the archival and book heritage – be it affected by major catastrophes or micro-disasters – in an efficient, rapid, safe and guaranteed way.

The Freezing

When the archival and book heritage is exposed to water because the archives, libraries and museum deposits that hold the collections are hit by floods, floods, extinguishing of fires, or are subject to infiltrations and accidents in the conservation environments, the freezing of the protected material is an obligatory choice. In this way, the damage caused by water and high humidity can be stopped and minimized.

Freezing paper material, books and wet or damp documents makes it possible to:

  • block the proliferation of molds and fungal spores
  • drastically reduce the chemical and physical reactions that can alter the substrates (preventing, for example, the adhesion of the sheets due to water and limiting the swelling of volumes)
  • stabilize soluble inks and dyes

In addition to the CrioSafetySystem for on-site pre-freezing of large quantities of collections affected by water, Fratielivi has all the necessary equipment to carry out the storage and freezing of damaged paper material in freezer containers with temperatures at -27 ° C.

The company can boast 10 freezer containers and an autonomous storage and freezing capacity of approximately 1.5 km of documentation. Fratielivi also has agreements throughout Italy with infrastructural networks of freezer sheds. These agreements allow it to always guarantee its customers the best freezing solution in compliance with the timing required for a successful intervention.

The process of restoration and recovery following an accident or catastrophic event in archives, libraries and museum deposits does not however end with the freezing of the material.

For the restoration to be complete and the paper material to be saved and safe, it is in fact essential to dry it.

The process of restoration and recovery following an accident or catastrophic event in archives, libraries and museum deposits does not however end with the freezing of the material.

For the restoration to be complete and the paper material to be saved and safe, it is in fact essential to dry it.


To dry documents damaged by water and previously frozen, Fratielivi has been using the freeze-drying method for about 20 years: the safest, most effective and best performing.

Freeze-drying is a solution for drying books and documents that exploits a process based on the use of physical processes and which has numerous advantages. Freeze-drying allows to act on large quantities of material quickly, has lower costs than other methods, does not subject the archival and library heritage already damaged by water to further stress, is effective against molds but also against insects.

With freeze-drying, the previously frozen paper material is subjected to a process that removes the water from the collections, after it has been frozen, making it evaporate in an environment in which a vacuum has been created. This process, which prevents water from returning to a liquid state, is called sublimation.

Sublimation allows you to avoid further damage to the documents processed because it respects the structure of the paper and other elements (bindings of leather, parchment, wood, etc.), inhibits the proliferation of molds and fungal spores by putting them in quiescence, disinfects the paper material from any insects present.

In the freeze-drying of paper material, the company holds a technological lead. In 2003, Frati e Livi was the first Italian company to design and build Books Wind1, a freeze-drying system specifically designed for paper and archival and book assets.

Thanks to its size, the plant allows Fratielivi to operate on large quantities of material previously subjected to freezing in a timely, efficient, safe and fast manner. The plant is still the largest in Italy and is the only one tested and approved by the Central Institute for Book Pathology.

The reconditioning according to law

Recovery from emergencies in archives, libraries and museum deposits requires that the dried and possibly also sanitized material be reconditioned before being put back in order. Since 1998, Fratielivi has been producing paper converting and containers certified for long shelf life. With a standard range that includes thousands of items and the possibility of also producing custom-made products, the company is able to offer a standard, fast and cost-effective reconditioning service for archival and book heritage.

Environmental remediation and sanitation

Environmental remediation and sanitation, when necessary, are an important prerequisite for the orderly relocation of the collections. The building, the furnishings and damp materials can in fact frustrate the recovery intervention. In fact, if molds have established themselves in the conservation environments, their damaging action on the recovered material can perpetuate for months and years.

For this reason, Fratielivi offers, also through consolidated partners, a wide range of solutions aimed at preventing the perpetuation of risk conditions. These include: the drainage of residual and stagnant waters; the drying of walls, floors and furnishings using professional dehumidifiers; post-accident extraordinary maintenance; environmental reclamation and sanitation; check it through microbiological analysis to check the conformity of the reclaimed environments to long conservation; the supply of data loggers; the installation of INT4SAN, an air purifier co-designed by Fratielivi for the hygiene of the indoor atmosphere and the maintenance of optimal microclimatic conditions in archives, libraries and museums. In this way, the recovered and reconditioned collections can be relocated and used in complete safety.


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