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40013 Castel Maggiore (BO) Italy

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 deposits. The company can boast successful interventions, both in the case of major 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 – and in the case of deterioration of the collections due to unsuitable environmental conditions (such as excess humidity, including water infiltrations, poor ventilation, copious dust deposits, 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 put in immediate safety the collections in danger, the team works on the site of the disaster using qualified personnel, consolidated procedures, innovative technologies, state-of-the-art machinery.

The recovery and the rescue

The recovery and rescue action is carried out in compliance with the guidelines issued in 2014 by the General Directorate 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 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, to 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 be subjected to immediate pre-freezing with the CryoSafetySystem.

The immediate blocking of molds and fungal proliferation with the CryoSafetySystem

Once recovered, the wet documents must be subjected as soon as possible to an appropriate freezing in special containers or freezer sheds. Freezing is necessary to stop the physical deterioration and fungal proliferation processes that are triggered by the contact of the paper material with water. In fact, molds tend to develop 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, parameterized and modular pre-freezing system on site for large quantities of archival and library material 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 library assets damaged by catastrophic events and to be sent to freezing, Fratielivi has its own fleet of machines and a wide range of equipment and suitable means of transport – including transpallets, 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 logistic operators, Fratielivi is also able to guarantee the taking charge and transfer of the compromised goods even in environmental situations that may require the use of special vehicles. – as mobile cranes of different types and sizes -, transport by water, or transport by land – with vehicles of different sizes at a controlled negative temperature.

This rich range of solutions, which always includes the possibility of activating specific nail-by-nail policies in less than 24 hours, allows Fratielivi to operate for the transfer of archival and book heritage – whether affected by major disasters or micro-disasters – in an efficient, fast, 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.

In fact, freezing the paper material allows you 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 an agreement throughout the Italian territory 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.


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 performing method.

Freeze-drying is a solution for drying books and documents that uses 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 record. Frati e Livi was, in 2003, the first Italian company to design and build a freeze-drying plant specifically designed for paper and archival and book goods.

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, called Books Wind1, 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. Fratielivi has been producing paper products and containers certified for long conservation since 1998. With a standard range that includes thousands of articles and the possibility of producing custom-made products, the company is able to offer a fast and low-cost reconditioning service for archival and book heritage in accordance with the law.

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 services aimed at avoiding the perpetuation of risk conditions. They include: the drainage of residual and stagnant water; drying of walls, floors and furnishings using professional dehumidifiers; extraordinary post-accident maintenance; environmental remediation and sanitation; the verification through microbiological analysis of control of the conformity of the restored environments to long conservation. In this way, the recovered and reconditioned collections can be relocated and used in complete safety.


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