Kansas State University

search

Hale Library Blog

Category: Great Room/ Murals

Cleaning house: Week eighteen update

We’ve witnessed a lot of things go down on the fourth floor of Hale Library over the years: students camping under tables with blankets and pillows during finals week; physical anthropology study sessions that featured skeletons and piles of bones; and, well, let’s be honest, we’ve seen some fourth-floor stacks activities we wish we hadn’t.

But we’ve never seen fourth floor as a woodworking shop … until now. A lot of materials — like the entire physical library collection and one of the murals — have been packed out so they can be cleaned and stored until Hale Library renovations are complete.

Dozens of unvarnished, clean wooden beams of different shapes are arrayed on the floor.
Clean wooden beams from the Great Room ceiling fill Hale Library’s fourth floor. 

The Great Room woodwork is staying, though. Crews are cleaning and stripping the beams. Eventually, they’ll be refinished, and when the roof and ceiling are repaired and the space is ready for renovation, the beams will be reinstalled.

The fourth floor woodworking space is walled off with plastic.

Two workers wearing white t-shirts and hard hats stand next to heavy pieces of wood resting on sawhorses.Crew members from John Canning Co. clean and remove varnish from two decorative arch braces that hung in the Great Room. 

A dark-haired man in a white t-shirt and hardhat uses a cloth to wipe a heavy piece of wood sitting on sawhorses.
A worker from John Canning Co. cleans a piece of Great Room woodwork.
Another worker applies stripper to remove coats of old varnish.

Meanwhile, back in the Great Room, conservators continue to monitor and stabilize the David Hicks Overmyer murals.

At left, a worker in a white hard hat stands elevated on a rough wood floor supported by scaffolding. An allegorical mural depicting the arts is to his right.
John Canning staff members have cleaned the murals, removed the damaged layer of varnish, stabilized areas of paint and applied a new layer of varnish.
In a close-up, shadowy view, a woman in a white hard hat and yellow construction best holds an iPad. The handle of a mallet is visible tucked under her right arm.
Julia Manglitz, an architect from TreanorHL Historic Preservation, stands on one of the ledges supported by scaffolding in the Great Room. She explained to us how she tests the condition of the plaster by “sounding,” or tapping the wall with a mallet and listening for how hollow it seems.
A woman's torso and arms are visible; she holds an iPad with a line drawing of the Great Room wall on it in her left hand and points at it with a stylus in her right hand.
Once she’s tested the plaster through sounding, Manglitz creates a visual map of the condition of the wall on her iPad. She reports that many sections are still very wet. (In fact, on the two floors below the Great Room, the moisture level in some of the plaster and stone walls is as high as 80 percent.)
An art deco style painting of a figure with curling brown hair
A figure from the “Arts” mural is covered in white spots of thermoplastic adhesive, which is used to stabilize flaking paint. 

Additional mural restoration is on hold until two things happen: First, the plaster walls need to be more thoroughly dried out, and second, the rest of the Great Room restoration needs to be more advanced so that the murals aren’t re-damaged during that process.

In a room filled with scaffolding, large rectangles of gray fabric cover the murals on the wall. To prevent the murals from getting damaged while the rest of the Great Room is renovated, conservators have covered them with a felt-like fabric that’s attached to a tack strip that runs around the perimeter of each painting.

In the temporary “dance floor” space above the murals (which are barely visible at right), the roof joists are exposed. 

Up above the murals, the Great Room’s decorative woodwork has been removed, and the ceiling has been completely torn out. Crews from Hutton Construction are moving in to start replacing the roof and ceiling in the 1927 building.

Elsewhere in Hale Library, most of the recent action has centered on cleaning toxic soot from all surfaces and scraping up the carpet glue. Since that process is nearly complete, the size of the Belfor Property Restoration crew has been scaled down.

Metal scaffolding extends down a four-story stairwell.
Your daily dose of vertigo is brought to you by the scaffolding in Hale Library’s southeast stairwell, where they recently cleaned walls, railings, light fixtures and the ceilings.
Eight workers in hard hats and yellow construction vests are stationed across the entire length of the floor wielding long-handled scraping tools.
The process of scraping carpet glue on Hale Library’s third floor was a lot labor intensive and a little gross and sticky.  
Library or roller rink? After the glue was scraped off, the concrete and tile floors were cleaned and polished.

Even though the Belfor folks are starting to leave Manhattan, they aren’t taking a break: As organizations across the Carolinas assess the devastation wrought by Hurricane Florence, Belfor will be on the ground with their massive semi-truck command center and their amazing people. We wish them a safe assignment as they begin recovery efforts there.

It’s been eighteen weeks of damage assessment and drying out, packing collections and planning. The space is a clean slate, and in forthcoming posts we’ll be able share a lot more about the Hale Library of the future.

Recovery momentum and magical spaces

We have only shared a small percentage of the thousands of photos that have been taken of Hale Library since May 22. This week we wanted to share a few more that are meaningful to us. Some are powerful illustrations of the reality of the devastation inside the building; others show how far we’ve come in the recovery process.

We’ve also included a few that are laden with memories and our hope for the future of Hale Library.

Here’s looking at you, Hale: A drone’s eye view of the building taken after the fire gives a sense of the phases of construction over the years. Historic Farrell Library (1927) is at the upper left. The white square inside the red circle is a temporary roof that covers areas damaged in the fire. June 21, 2018. 

There’s one aspect of the recovery that’s hard to get across in these blog posts: It’s dark in there! We share photos that are as well-lit as possible, but in those instances, the light source isn’t Hale Library’s lights; they’re either natural light from the windows or temporary lighting.

An alcove on the first floor, south side of Hale Library. June 11, 2018. 

The electrical infrastructure was seriously compromised, so the building is operating off of temporary construction power supplied by portable units rather than “house power.” As soon as you walk away from a space that’s lit up with construction lights … you’re in the dark. More than once the power has gone out on the workers removing the books from the stacks.

Now imagine that you’re working in here, and those light bulbs go out. August 13, 2018. 

Fortunately, the building is nearly empty now. We’ve come a long way in the last sixteen weeks. The majority of the collection has been packed out, the duct work is completely clean, and the process of removing soot from all other hard surfaces is nearly complete.

Our services have been successfully relocated, too.

The reserves collection surrounded by water pooling on the carpet. May 24, 2018. 

The reserves collection, which includes a lot of textbooks, was located behind Library Help on the second floor. Now students can access reserves at branch libraries and the new Library Help Desk at the K-State Student Union.

IT computers sit in puddles of water in a cubicle on Hale Library’s second floor directly below the Great Room. May 24, 2018. 

These days, the IT Help Desk is up and running in the Cat’s Pause Lounge on the top floor of K-State Student Union.

And those two sodden and sad locations in the photos above? They’re awaiting their next act!

The second floor office area is clean and empty; at rear of photo, the reserves shelving is wrapped in plastic. September 5, 2018. 
Room 212, former home of IT Services, is a blank canvas. August 10, 2018. 

The Harry Potter Room.

If you’ve been on campus since the first Potter film came out in 2001, you probably know what we’re talking about. The Great Room has inspired comparisons to the Great Hall in the Harry Potter movies for nearly two decades. More than one student has said that just being there made them feel smarter and more focused.

Post-fire, it looked as if the Harry Potter Room had a brush with some dark magic.

Charred building material hangs out of a hole in the Great Room ceiling.
A hole in the Great Room ceiling from a wand misfire? Nope, it’s from  fire. July 20, 2018. 
A view of the Great Room taken from above shows a dozen massive, warped wooden tables stand in puddles of water.
Water pooling across the floor, warped tables. May 24, 2018.
A heavy oak acorn finial lies cracked on the floor.
This Hagrid-sized acorn fell from the ceiling. Now, most of the woodwork has been deinstalled (in a much more deliberate and careful manner). It will be refinished prior to reinstallation. August 6, 2018. 

These days, it’s gratifying to see the space wiped clean and buzzing with activity. We’re moving forward, and the team of conservators, architects, construction workers and craftspeople executing the recovery and restoration plan are wizards at what they do.

A worker removed paint from a plaster capital to allow water to evaporate from the walls more quickly. July 20, 2018. 
A worker at left removes paint from a pilaster to speed the drying process. At center, a conservation specialist examines fragile portions of the “Arts” mural. July 20, 2018. 
Belfor workers make their way from the first floor to second. Since this photo was taken, the wooden display cases to the right and left of the second floor entrance have been removed. June 11, 2018. 

Here’s a less-known Potter-themed room for any die-hard fans out there. Room 117 on Hale Library’s ground floor was not a well-trafficked space. It was home to rows and rows of moveable compact shelving.

The bulk of the collection that experienced water damage was located in Room 117. Fortunately, most was deemed salvageable. May 25, 2018. 

Those who took time to uncover the library’s secrets, though, were aware that Room 117 was generally cooler when the rest of the building was hot, warmer when the rest of the building was cold, nearly always quiet and usually had vacant tables next to some enormous banks of windows. No space in the library, save perhaps the Great Room, offered more beautiful natural light.

The shelving is gone and Room 117 stands empty. August 24, 2018. 
Another view of Room 117 facing west toward the English Department Building. August 24, 2018. 

How is all of this Potter-themed?

A few of our student employees dubbed it “The Room of Requirement.” It always had what you needed. We can’t wait to see what need the Room of Requirement—and all of these now-empty spaces—fills in its next life.

Week Fifteen Update: A ton of Jenga fun and other developments

Librarians are pretty obsessive about tracking everything in their collections. It’s all meticulously cataloged, which allows us to identify where each item is at any given point in time, who has it, and when it’s coming back.

Cataloguing pieces of a mural? The oak beams from the Great Room? A 50-pound solid oak acorn finial? That’s a little out of our wheelhouse.

The wooden acorn finials (shown on the cart at right wrapped in a green protective covering) weigh 50 pounds each.

Fortunately, John Canning Company is in charge of disassembling Historic Farrell Library so it can be put back together better than ever. We’re confident that there will be no Humpty Dumpty situations on their watch.

Let’s set the scene: There’s a coupla big ol’ holes in Farrell Library. Charred, scary holes that have been covered by a temporary roof.

Until recently, it was difficult to get up close and personal with the ceiling to photograph the fire damage.

Below that, you have the dance floor. That’s what they call the temporary plywood floor built on top of the metal scaffolding that fills the entire Great Room. We don’t want to keep those holes, so the dance floor gives workers access to the ceiling where they can begin the process of removing the fire debris to replace the ceiling and roof.

Wooden beams that will be preserved are laid out on the “dance floor.” Every piece is labeled so that once the room has been renovated, it will be possible to reassemble the woodwork.

Workers are carefully taking down the woodwork that lends the Great Room much of its historic character. It’s a little like high-stakes Jenga: Removing, labeling and relocating each piece of wood is a delicate process.

In order to keep the ceiling repair process moving forward, workers have to take each piece of wood off of the dance floor. Here you can see the scaffolding that supports the floor. 

When Farrell Library is sporting a new ceiling and roof sans holes, it will be time to reverse-Jenga all of that woodwork. We can’t wait to see it back where it belongs!

The ceiling has been removed already in this portion of the Great Room, and the rest of the beams will follow.

Over in the Richard L. D. & Marjorie J. Morse Department of Special Collections, librarians have been going hands-on to pack out the Libraries’ unique research collections and rare materials. This area of the building mainly experienced smoke damage, and we initially hoped the books and other holdings could be cleaned on site. It’s become clear, though, that in order to keep them safe, everything needs to be transported to secure, reliably conditioned space.

“We should have everything out before the end of September,” said Associate Dean of Libraries Mike Haddock. “It’s been a slow process, but we can finally see the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Only a few rooms of special collections materials remain in Hale Library. They’re the last of more than 1.5 million items to leave the building and go into storage where they will be professionally cleaned.

The remaining special collections materials will join the 140,000 boxes that have already been sent to one of the three offsite storage facilities we’ve contracted to keep everything safe. The newest location in our stable of stables is one of Underground Archive & Storage’s facilities, a former limestone mine in Kansas City, Mo.

Underground Archive & Storage has facilities across the region; the one we’re using occupies a series of caves created by limestone mining. Given that Hale Library is a massive limestone construction, we think there’s a metaphor here. We’ll let you know when we figure it out.

Now, it might not have been the first thing on everyone’s mind after the fire, but we had materials on order that arrived over the summer. We were a little busy, and we weren’t able to make those available … until now!

NEW K-State Libraries materials that were destined for Hale Library are being held in Seaton Hall. You can visit Library Help in the Union and ask for the item you want in person; we’ll retrieve it on the spot. Alternately, you can make your request through our website and specify which library help desk you’d like to pick your item up at.

And, as we look to the future, we continue our work with the architects from PGAV. They recently completed “like-for-like drawings”: PGAV determined what the building looked like right before the fire. Now those drawings go to a contractor who assigns what the replacement costs would be if we were to rebuild Hale Library as it was. These are essential steps that have to happen before the various parties involved assign a dollar amount to the total damages. Only after that is completed will we know how much K-State will receive from the insurance companies.

A group of six librarians and architects sit and stand around a table as one of them points to a print out of a floor plan.
While we wait for information about total damages and insurance, staff are working with PGAV to imagine a library for K-State’s future.

Until then, if you ever have questions you’d like us to address in this blog, please comment below or contact us at libcomm@ksu.edu.

And to everyone who has been following along with us on this journey, thank you! Your comments and words of encouragement mean the world to us!

The future of the “We Are the Dream” mural

A full view of the mural, which features symbols of Native American culture, including a bison; images representing black American struggle such as Martin Luther King Jr. speaking on the Washington mall; and leading Hispanic activists such as Cesar Chavez. Stars and stripes from the U.S. flag form the backdrop.

Maybe you’ve never seen it. The “We Are the Dream” mural on the fourth floor of Hale Library is not heavily trafficked, but it’s an important record of the struggle of K-State’s underrepresented students to be seen and heard.

“We Are the Dream,” which was sponsored by the Black Student Union, Movimiento Estudiantil de Chicanos de Aztlan (MEChA, a Hispanic student group), and the Native American Indian Student Body, was painted and dedicated in 1980. At that time, it was a striking focal point in the Minorities Resources/Research Center. In recent years, the space has served as the Academic Learning Center, a daytime study location for student athletes. 

A man stands on a ladder at right with his hand outstretched to work on portraits of a Hispanic family that are featured in the mural.
Harold Carter started the “We are the Dream” painting in May 1980. He was a senior in landscape architecture when the mural was dedicated that fall.

This summer, the “We Are the Dream” mural was damaged in the May 22 fire, along with the rest of the building. In fact, the Academic Learning Center staff, led by Liane Fowler, assistant director of Student Academic Services, was the first to smell the smoke in their space directly in front of the painting.

Their area is located on the opposite side of the wall from the Great Room Murals, so the two works of art have undergone some of the same challenges. Both suffered from significant water damage and soiling, and it is imperative that the the wall between them dries out. The “We Are the Dream” mural had mold trapped behind it: While the images are beautiful, the paint created a barrier that inhibited the moisture from escaping.

An interior scene of the Academic Learning Center with the mural on the wall at left. The carpet, half a dozen round wooden tables, and black office chairs are covered in plaster debris.
The Academic Learning Center was very near the site where the fire started on the roof and suffered extensive water damage. May 24, 2018.

Rachel Gilberti, the chief conservator at John Canning Company, has been working with the damaged mural since June 22, after her company was contacted by Julia Mathias Manglitz, the preservation architect with TreanorHL. 

“The ‘We Are the Dream’ mural is painted on burlap that was incorporated in the original 1927 building construction, so that’s been there for a long time,” Gilberti said. “When they made the mural in the early ’80s, they came in and painted over everything that was existing. So, in reality, that surface was never really prepared for a painting.”

Two women in yellow construction vests sit on metal scaffolding as they remove a section of the mural from the wooden planks behind it that run horizontally across the length of the wall.
Conservationists carefully remove the mural in sections. The squares on the painting are facing paper, which is made of mulberry fibers and helps protect the surface as the painting is handled and moved. August 6, 2018. 

“Another challenge is that we have multiple types of adhesives going on behind the burlap. There’s the original adhesive used when the burlap was installed, and over the years, as the seams started coming apart, they started injecting other adhesives on the seams. There are 15 pieces of burlap, so a lot of the seams have a different type of adhesive, and each type reacts differently.”

Gilberti and her conservation associates have removed each section of burlap from the wall, which will allow air to reach the wall behind the painting and dry it out.

The “We are the Dream” mural has been moved in pieces to another floor in the library and spread on tables so the conservationists can clean them.

Two women wearing white hard hats and yellow construction vests lean over large brown rectangular panels of the murals spread on library tables so they can carefully remove debris.
After deinstallation, the painting was laid out face-down on tables in the library so conservationists Grace Moran and Juliana Roy could clean the burlap on the reverse side. August 10, 2018. 

However, the Libraries administration’s hope that the mural won’t remain in pieces. It will be safely stored by John Canning Company in a climate-controlled space until it can be reinstalled in a clean, renovated Hale Library. 

“They are salvageable,” Gilberti said. “Every piece of art is salvageable. It’s not one of those things. Conservators are here for exactly that reason, to salvage the artwork and preserve what the original artist’s intent is. So they will be saved.”

When asked about the “We Are the Dream” mural, Dean of Libraries Lori Goetsch noted that it’s an important part of K-State’s cultural history.

“We love having it as part of Hale Library and look forward to its restoration,” she said. “The fact that this mural celebrates diversity and progress at K-State makes it an important piece of work to be treated with respect and preserved as well as it can be.”

A woman sits on yellow scaffolding several feet off of the ground in front of a section of the mural featuring large red and white stripes and portraits of an Hispanic man, woman, and infant.
August 6, 2018. 

The mural has been an important symbol to many K-Staters over the years. In May 1993, students gathered around the mural to mourn the death of Hispanic activist and leader Cesar Chavez, who is pictured in the painting.

The Kansas State Collegian reported that members of HALO, (Hispanic American Leadership Organization), sang, listened to music and talked about Chavez’s impact on their lives in front of the “We Are the Dream” mural.

Elsa Diaz, the president of HALO at that time, said the mural is significant to minorities on campus because it is the only thing on campus that can give them a sense of belonging. “The mural means a lot to a number of people,” Diaz said. “It is important to people who want to come and worship their heroes.”

A panoramic shot of the room without the mural: Wooden planks run lengthwise along the top two-thirds of the wall while the bottom third is exposed stone.
The fourth floor space after the “We Are the Dream” mural was deinstalled. August 21, 2018.

 

Saving the Great Room murals

The Great Room murals, painted in 1934 by David Hicks Overmyer, are the most iconic works of art on the K-State campus

During the fire, some of the most serious damage occurred in the Great Room ceiling immediately above the murals. Water from both the sprinkler system and from the firefighting efforts on the roof saturated the wall and dripped over the surface of the paintings. Then, in the following days, the plaster and masonry wall behind the mural absorbed a large amount of water that was still flowing through the building.

Hale Library Great Room – 07/20/2018 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

Early June

Since early June, the future of the Great Room and its murals have been in the hands of Julia Mathias Manglitz, preservation architect with TreanorHL.

Manglitz examined the murals post-fire. At that time, she worked from a lift to document soiling and streaking on the paintings that resulted from sap running from wood trim directly above. The murals were also stained by dirty water that came from the attic. Additionally, Manglitz discovered areas where paint was cracking and areas that were already exhibiting very small areas of paint loss.

A woman with one hand resting on red metal scaffolding wears a white construction hat and a yellow safety vest. She stands in the foreground of the Great Room while workers in the background examine the murals on the walls.
Manglitz, a preservation architect with two decades of experience, majored in aeronautical engineering in undergrad. “My bosses at TreanorHL like to joke with people: ‘And this is Julia, our resident rocket scientist.’” July 20, 2018. 

When public information officer Darchelle Martin spoke with Manglitz in late July, Manglitz explained that the murals are painted directly on plaster that is attached directly to the masonry walls. In other words, the paint needs to adhere to the plaster, and the plaster needs to adhere to the walls.

“If we lose the plaster, we’ve lost the paintings as well,” Manglitz said. “So I inspected the murals as closely as I could by doing what’s called ‘sounding.’ When we work with materials like plaster and stone, we tap on them with a rubber mallet, and depending on what sound comes back to us, we can tell if something is well-bonded. Hollow sounding plaster is an indication that layers of plaster are starting to delaminate from each other or from the masonry. On my initial evaluation, even though I wasn’t seeing plaster coming away from the walls except in small areas, what I found were large areas that sounded hollow.”

A line drawing of cross sections of the library building indicates where the fire occurred on the roof, the directions from which water entered the building, and how water flow impacted the murals.
“That hollow area was worse once I got near and below the fourth floor line,” she said. “The Great Room is a two-story space, and the fourth floor meets on the back side of this wall. So the water that hit the fourth floor was then funneled back into the plaster and masonry. The entire thickness got wet; it’s not just where it ran down the face of the wall.” 

Late June

Between concerns for paint loss and the potential for plaster loss, Manglitz decided to contact a conservation contractor as quickly as possible. Based on her experience working with John Canning Company on the extensive renovation and restoration of the Kansas Statehouse in Topeka, she recommended they be brought onto the project.

Rachel Gilberti, chief conservator at John Canning, has been working in Hale Library since June 22.

Once Gilberti joined the project, more intensive mapping of the mural damage began. By this time, scaffolding had been erected so they could finally make a thorough, up-close examination. They discovered small areas of plaster deformation where it was starting to delaminate from the wall. Other areas of the paint were marked by a fine pattern of dense cracking called craquelure.

At right, a woman wearing a white hard hat scans the surface of a mural with a hand-held black light device.
A black light allows Gilberti to see damage not visible under normal lighting conditions. July 20, 2018. 

“Water escapes through the cracks, which is a good thing, but sometimes the paint can come off, too,” Manglitz said.

Gilberti also noted that it’s important that the wall needs to dry at a stable rate. “If it starts to dry too quickly, the layers begin to separate from one another,” she said. “It’s also important to have the wall dry from both sides and meet in the middle. If it dries just from the back, all of the salts in the stone get pulled into the front and the material on the surface of the stone will come out.”

It could be a long time before the walls are thoroughly dry.

“The walls are fourteen inches thick, and the general rule of thumb for drying mass masonry is one inch per month,” Manglitz said. “That said, it doesn’t have to be perfectly dry before we start the conservation process to visually restore the appearance, but we needed to get it to the point where we feel like it’s safe.”

A woman with one hand resting on red metal scaffolding wears a white construction hat and a yellow safety vest. She stands in the foreground of the Great Room while workers in the background examine the murals on the walls.
We work with sculpture, murals, paintings, anything that’s in the architectural art realm all over the United States. I’ve been doing this almost 14 years in Europe and the United States. It’s a lot of travel, but you go where the art is, and it’s a great pleasure to see all of this beauty that’s spread throughout the country.

Late July

When the wall started to dry, additional small areas of paint began to flake off. Gilberti and her team began a triage campaign to repair small areas of damage and prevent others from worsening.

They used syringes to insert thermoplastic adhesive where they found paint cracking and peeling. Once the adhesive seeped in, they placed a clear piece of mylar over it and heated it with a small iron to get it to set. The process helped them keep the paint layer in place and on the wall.

In the foreground at right, a woman wearing a white hard hat and yellow safety vest applies a white substance onto the wall at left, while in the background, another woman observes the process.
Gilberti oversees conservation specialist Grace Moran administering the thermoplastic adhesive. July 20, 2018. 

As they monitored the drying-out process and addressed the paint delamination, they noted that different colors of paint reacted differently.

“Each color, each pigment in itself has unique traits,” Gilberti said. “Some pigments have less binding in them. All the reds in general are more sensitive pigments, so they react differently, especially to water. Greens are also very sensitive. White is a very stable pigment, so paints mixed with white did very well. The ones that don’t have that extra binding power are what we tried to stop from flaking with the thermoplastic adhesive.”

August

Since the beginning of their efforts to preserve the murals, Manglitz and her team have been collecting data regarding how wet the walls are. Initially, they could only take measurements at the surface, but since then, they’ve inserted probes seven inches or eight inches into the masonry to determine the moisture levels inside the walls.

In a detail from the art deco style "Arts" mural, an actor in flowing maroon robes extends one arm while the other hand is wrapped around his torso in a dramatic gesture.
Metered moisture readings indicate that the surface of the art mural is around 30%, but the in-wall moisture content at the floor level is at 90%, which is very wet for masonry. “This is the most fragile mural, the one we’re most concerned about,” Manglitz said. “We can’t remove the varnish until we’re more confident that it’s stable.” July 20, 2018. 

“Once we determined that the easternmost mural, Industry, was dry and stable enough, we were able to do a surface cleaning to remove the drips from the wood trim above without having paint actively flake off,” Gilberti said. “After that we began removing the varnish coating.”

The protective varnish was applied the last time the murals were cleaned and restored in 2011. Stripping that layer will increase the breathability of the wall.

As the process of stabilizing, drying, cleaning and stripping the murals of varnish continues, Manglitz and her team have several important questions to weigh regarding next steps.

Close-up of the streaking on the surface of the "Arts" Great Room mural which features a female violinist with shoulder-length brown hair.
Detail of the Arts mural. July 20, 2018.

“We need to decide when it’s appropriate to do the conservation work on the murals given amount of repair that has to be completed in the rest of the space and above this space,” she said. “Roof repairs come with the risk of water infiltration, so we’ll be asking ourselves, ‘What can we do to protect the murals? When do we think it’s appropriate to move forward with conservation? What should the sequence be?’”

Even though those questions haven’t been fully answered yet, Gilberti is confident that they will find a way forward to ensure the future of the Great Room murals.

“Every piece of art is salvageable,” she said. “Conservators are here for exactly that reason, to salvage the artwork and preserve what the original artist’s intent is. It’s not one of those situations where they’re going to disappear: They will be saved. We’ve just got to assess as we go. The murals will have damage, but we are here to mitigate that.”

 

But what about the Great Room?

Perhaps the most-frequently asked question we’ve received since the fire is “Will the Great Room be okay?”

The answer is a complicated yes.

Charred insulation hangs from a hole in the ceiling between two large oak beams.
The fire came through the ceiling in two locations on the south side of the Great Room.

Historic Farrell Library, the original 1927 library building, sustained significant damage, and it has been a long and difficult process to determine the next steps for preserving the structure.

The fire started in the roof just south of the Great Room, and it spread quickly, so it was difficult to isolate and extinguish. Because the room was at the center of the firefighting efforts, it took on a significant amount of water from both the firefighting and the sprinkler system. Since the building materials in Farrell—plaster, limestone, wood—are all highly porous, they absorbed a lot of water.

TreanorHL, an architecture firm with strengths in historic preservation, and John Canning Studios, a conservation/preservation studio, have subcontracted with Belfor Property Restoration, our emergency recovery team. The two organizations are assessing the damage and executing the subsequent recovery processes to aid in returning the space to its original state.

Some metal scaffolding sits on the elevated plywood floor directly under the Great Room's ceiling and wooden beams.
The Great Room is filled with scaffolding that supports a plywood floor. From this height, crews can reach the ceiling to assess the extensive smoke, water and mold damage.

Connecticut-based John Canning Studios has worked across the country on projects such as the White House and the US Treasury Building. In Topeka, they installed plaster beams and capitals in the Kansas Statehouse that were part of the original plans but never executed. They also completed extensive plaster repairs in 100 spaces throughout the capitol.

On July 20, Darchelle Martin, public information officer, spoke with Dave Gough, John Canning Studios’ historic preservation manager.

A man in a hardhat and yellow construction vest leans against red metal scaffolding in the Great Room.
Dave Gough, John Canning Studios’ historic preservation manager.

Gough, who has been with Canning for more than 10 years, arrived in Manhattan on July 5 to assess the damage. Since then, their top priority has been drying the space, but the process must happen slowly in order to prevent additional damage.

Currently, they’re working on removal of architectural paint. Gough said that paint acts as a barrier that keeps moisture from evaporating, so eliminating the paint from the walls, columns, and capitals (the ornamental plaster at the top of the columns), will help the walls dry more quickly.

He also explained that a lot of plaster delamination has occurred throughout the space: The top, protective layers of plaster were compromised by the water, and the exposed surface is much more porous, which increases the ability of the wall to breathe and dry. The loss, while unfortunate, is repairable.

“Right now we are in defensive mode, especially regarding the murals,” Gough said. “We’re trying to stop any more damage from occurring.”

A man in a white hardhat and yellow construction vest faces a wood beam and examines it with a flashlight.
Gough examines a section of oak woodwork on the Great Room ceiling.

Once the drying process is further along, the focus will shift to preserving the space and restoring it as much as possible to its original state. The paint colors, the light fixtures and all other components of the room will be examined in historic photos and analyzed through scientific methods, too, so they can determine what it looked like in its very earliest days. The option to restore the room to a more historically accurate appearance is being explored.

“We will take paint samples from the painted surfaces and make an analysis under a microscope,” Gough said. “We will find out what the original historic colors were, in order to learn what the original architect’s design intent was. There’s a lot of science involved in what we do.”

 In a vintage black-and-white photo of the Great Room, students study at large wooden tables. The building's heavy wooden ceiling beams, ornate light fixtures, and leaded glass windows are visible.
The Great Room, shown here in the late 1930s, used to feature ornate light fixtures. They were removed several decades later.

Plaster and paint are just two of the materials that will be preserved. The team has a complex system in place to make sure all of the oak woodwork in the room is restored.

“We’re removing all the wood in pieces,” Gough said. “We catalog it, we’ll clean the backside of it and get rid of any biological growth, such as mold and mildew. Then we’re going to strip the front of it, preserve it. Finally, the wood will all be stored until the rest of the space has been repaired and it can be refinished and reinstalled.”

Gough said that the bookshelves and bookcases in the room are all oak, too, but they’ve determined that not all of the material is original to the room. Only the portions that are original will be salvaged and receive the same treatment as the oak beams and other ornate woodwork.

Hale Library Great Room – 07/20/2018 – Spherical Image – RICOH THETA

“It’s going to be a time intensive job,” Gough said. “There is a lot involved in keeping it organized and keeping the pieces together. It’s a process of reverse engineering, taking it apart piece by piece, preserving it, and making sure it all goes back together in the same place. It’s going to be quite a feat.”

The timeline is equally complicated.

“We don’t know yet when it can go back up,” he said. “It depends on a lot of circumstances, like how dry the building is and how quickly the roof and ceiling can be rebuilt. They’ll also put in a fireproof ceiling and venting. Once all that construction is done, we’ll hope to be back on site and start reinstallation.”

A close-up view of an acorn the size of a volleyball that's carved out of oak and affixed to one of the ceiling beams in the Great Room.
Decorative elements of the Great Room, including carved wooden features like this acorn, will be preserved.

In our next post, we’ll tackle another big question: “What will happen to the Great Room murals?”

Help for Hale: Belfor Property Restoration

Hale Library is in recovery, but we would not be as far as we are now without Belfor Property Restoration. Their crews have been working very hard for up to twelve hours a day, six days a week in challenging conditions.

A group of people gather around each other in Yellow vests.
A fraction of the Belfor crew gathers on the walking mall east of Hale Library. There are nearly 200 Belfor employees that are working on the recovery. June 11, 2018.
A Belfor worker in an orange vest in front of Hale next to a red tent.
In order to get in and out of Hale Library, you must sign in with Belfor staff. There is always a worker stationed at the check-in tent. June 28,2018.
A pallet of bottled water sits in the back of a black truck.
Belfor crews are tackling labor-intensive work. In order to ensure they are healthy and hydrated, Belfor buys pallets of water in large quantities for their workers. June 28, 2018.
A Belfor worker in a yellow vests lifts up carpet next to white bookshelves.
A Belfor worker tears the flooring out of Room 117. Room 117 is one of the areas that sustained the most damage since it was under the Great Room. June 28, 2018.

Every inch of the library must be cleaned, including the spaces above the drop ceiling grid and the duct work. A Belfor worker stands on a ladder cleaning with a chemical sponge in order to remove the soot. June 28, 2018.

Red scaffolding on wheels sits under an exposed ceiling that has silver metal tubes sticking out of it.
The duct work and the ceiling all need to be cleaned, so they have portable scaffolding to reach everything safely. June 28, 2018.
A Belfor worker builds scaffolding in front of the Ornamental windows in the Great Room.
Belfor workers build scaffolding in the Great Room to help restore the space.  June 28, 2018.
Belfor workers stand on metal scaffolding under a giant hole in the ceiling.
The scaffolding on the south side of the Great Room will allow workers to preserve the murals. June 28, 2018
A dark room with metal beams, shelves with books, and cement flooring is lit up by a single bulb.
Some of the work was done by flashlight since commercial power has only been restored to the data center and a few of the elevators. May 31, 2018.
A dark room is lit up by a light in the distance that shows people in yellow vests working.
While much of Hale Library is still dark, portable lighting powered by generators is available in parts of the building. June 28, 2018

 


Week seven update: Special collections, the Great Room and more

Welcome to our week seven Hale Library update!

Now that most floors of the building are emptied and we’re starting to work with a blank slate, truly dramatic changes are less visible. Nonetheless, surprises crop up on a regular basis—some less welcome than others.

Near a Great Room sign on Hale Library's third floor, yellow construction lights are strung across the ceiling.
Since this photo of the third floor was taken, the rest of the books have been boxed up and moved to Executive Court. June 28, 2018. 

Special Collections

The vast majority of the materials from the Richard L. D. and Marjorie J. Morse Department of Special Collections are located on Stack G and Stack H. For weeks, our plan was to clean those materials on the premises.

“We really hoped we could set up cleaning stations in the building and go through the process of vacuuming them and wiping them down to remove soot right here on site,” Roberta Johnson, director of administrative and IT services, said.

Unfortunately, Stack G is getting hotter: A water line that provides cool water to the chilling system was damaged in the fire. It needs to be fixed, but that water line is an area of the Great Room that is currently inaccessible.

This week, we received the news that temperatures in Stack H are rising, too.

Rows of metal shelving draped in plastic are lit up by a flashlight.
There aren’t any lights in Stack H, and temperatures are rising; materials there will be boxed up and moved offsite soon. July 6, 2018.

“All of the building except the data center in the basement and a few elevators are still powered by generators,” she added. “The cooling system for Stack H isn’t getting reliable power, and until good commercial power is available, and the unit’s electrical issues are resolved, these problems will continue.”

So the materials in both Stack H and Stack G will be packed out soon and transferred to Executive Court, the storage and cleaning facility near the airport.

“In some places, the building conditions are getting worse instead of better,” Johnson said. “We just can’t risk leaving valuable materials in non-climate controlled space.”

The Great Room

A construction worker kneels on a platform at the top of the scaffolding.
A worker erects scaffolding near the ceiling along the south wall of the Great Room. June 28, 2018.

Additional scaffolding has been constructed in the Great Room. Once complete, crews will build a floor across the top; from that floor they will be able to reach the ceiling and start the restoration process.

Large plastic tubes and metal scaffolding are back lit by a leaded glass window in the Great Room.
The dehumidifer tubes are still removing moisture from the Great Room, and a second set of tubes is pumping chilled air in. July 2, 2018.

Julia Manglitz, a professional art restorer, is on-site to oversee efforts to preserve the Great Room murals, which were painted by David Hicks Overmyer in 1934.

“Her goal is to dry the plaster out very slowly in order to cause the least possible damage to the murals,” Haddock said.

An agricultural worker holding a scythe is framed by metal scaffolding in the foreground.
A detail of the agriculture mural. June 28, 2108.

He also explained that she is using a large black light to examine and photograph the murals because the UV light can make damage on the painting’s surface readily visible.

The “We are the Dream” mural is in the Academic Learning Center, which is on the opposite side of the wall from the Great Room Mural. Manglitz hopes to remove the “We are the Dream” canvas from the wall as the plaster dries, but that painting is in less-than-ideal condition and the outcome is uncertain.

“We are the Dream.” July 2, 2018.

In a related effort, there is a full painting crew in the Academic Learning Center, but they are actually “unpainting,” or removing the paint from the walls, thereby erasing a barrier that is preventing the plaster from drying out.

The next step will be to remove the ceiling in the Academic Learning Center, another part of the effort to eliminate moisture from the environment.

One building challenge and one bit of trivia

Meanwhile, up on the roof, there are three very large, non-functioning air conditioning units that will have to come off. (Well, two very large ones, and one very, very large one.)

Three rectangular gray metal boxes sit on the library roof.
Three air conditioner units are nonfunctioning. The unit at right is approximately 10 feet high by 18 feet long. July 2, 2018.

“It’s a challenge we haven’t quite managed to come up with a workable solution for yet,” Mike Haddock, associate dean, said. “There’s been talk of everything from dismantling them and bringing them down in pieces to airlifting them off with a helicopter.”

Stay tuned for those photos, right?

About a month ago, we shared photos of the dehumidification tubes that prompted references to science fiction pop culture.

Well, sci fi fans, meet the hydroxyl generator.

A large box with a circle at its center is lit by four smaller glowing blue lights inside.
A hydroxyl generator casts an eerie glow. July 2, 2018.

There are multiple boxes emitting an eerie blue glow across fifth floor. These hydroxyl generators use a phenomenon that occurs in nature to neutralize odor left by the fire.

Hydroxyls are molecules that are created when sun’s ultraviolet rays react with water vapor in the air; however, they don’t occur indoors. The generator creates atmospheric hydroxyls that neutralize smells by breaking down the chemical bonds in the odor-causing bacteria molecules. Hydroxyls also neutralize some molecules in mildew and in mold spores. The machines are safe for use in occupied areas.

Hale Library: Week six update

Today marks six weeks since the fire at Hale Library. Since last week, carpet has been completely removed from several floors, more of the drop ceiling system has been taken out, scaffolding has started going up in the Great Room and crews have begun the labor-intensive process of wiping soot from every surface in every room.

As you’ll see here, the some of the changes are quite obvious!

The Great Room

The Great Room was the area that received the most damage from the fire, and it will take the longest to restore. In perhaps the most visually dramatic change, scaffolding is being constructed throughout so that crews can access the walls and ceiling and start the cleaning and restoration process.

Workers constructing scaffolding in the Great Room.
In these photos, the scaffolding lines the walls, but eventually it will fill the entire space so workers can access the ceiling, too. June 28, 2018. (Click photo to enlarge.)

The murals are on plaster walls that are still drying out, and we are working with preservationists in order to save them.

Workers construcing scaffolding along the murals in the Great Room.
Scaffolding on the south wall against the murals. June 28, 2018.
The Great Room ceiling: At left, a wooden beam that extends across the space has split lengthwise. At right, green mold spreading across the white plaster.
Scaffolding will allow workers to access the Great Room ceiling, which warped and split one of the wood beams and caused mold on the ceiling. June 28, 2018.

The First and Second Floors

If you read our five-week update, you know that most of floors have been cleared of furniture, carpet and drop ceilings.

As of this week, the first and second floors are completely empty. It’s exciting to see a blank canvas emerging. Now the area can be cleaned, and we can start thinking about its future.

Dozens of students on the second floor of Hale Library study and use the computers and printers.
The second floor before the fire.
Second floor of Hale Library after the carpet and ceiling tiles were torn out.
The second floor on June 6 before the furniture, technology, ceiling grid and lights were removed.
The second floor on June 28, 2018, after the carpet, furniture, technology, drop ceiling system and some areas of drywall were removed.
Hundreds of cardboard boxes sitting on the concrete floor are stacked four high.
During the initial push to remove furniture and books from Hale Library, the first floor was used for storage. June 11, 2018. 
First floor of Hale Library with ceiling, carpet and furniture removed.
Now, first floor has been cleared of all furniture and boxes. It is empty and ready for thorough cleaning. June 28, 2018.

Isolated Mold Outbreak in the Stacks

The library is a 550,000-square-foot building, and most of it is still without commercial power, which means that many of our inspections have been conducted with flashlights.

Of course, we are always looking for emerging problems throughout the building, even in places where we initially thought the damage was minimal. However, we now know that lack of light prevented us from identifying one area of concern.

In the last week, we found mold in a small, isolated section of the stacks.

A close-up of mold blooming across the tops of several books.
A small section of books has been affected by a mold outbreak. June 26, 2018.
Mold blooms across the fore-edge of several books sitting on metal shelving.
A small section of books has been affected by a mold outbreak. June 26, 2018.

So what happened? As the hundreds of thousands of gallons of water that permeated the building during the fire drained from the top floors to the bottom, it flowed along any unrestricted path available. Initially, the stacks were dry, but some of that water drained down the edges of a pipe. Since there is a gap around the pipe where it passed through each floor, water seeped through to the levels below. As the water progressed down the exterior surface of the pipe, books in the immediate vicinity got wet.

Red pipe passes through a hole cut in the drywall ceiling.
Pipe that passes through several levels of the stacks. June 26, 2018.

Since this discovery, we have removed the affected books. We remain vigilant for similar leaks and pockets of moisture throughout the stacks.

Packing and Removing Books

Since the last update, we continue to remove books from the library for cleaning at an offsite location. Currently, crews are boxing and moving books on the third and fourth floors.

As of July 2, crews have packed more than 38,000 boxes of books and library materials.

Until June 28, the elevators were operating thanks to power from generators, but the elevators still didn’t have lights, so crews were moving books from the upper floors to the ground floor in the dark.

Rows of empty white metal shelving units.
Empty shelves on the third floor that were once filled with books. June 28, 2018.
Boxes of books are pushed on carts to be removed from Hale for cleaning.
Belfor workers help load out boxes of books from Hale’s fourth floor for cleaning. June 28, 2018.

Cleaning Fifth Floor

The fifth floor was relatively unscathed, but it still needs to be professionally cleaned to remediate soot and smoke damage. Even ductwork will be cleaned throughout the entire building.

On fifth, crews are cleaning every accessible surface that was exposed to soot and smoke. It’s a very labor-intensive process. First they vacuum all surfaces—walls, windows, doors, everything—with a HEPA vacuum, which is a vacuum affixed with a filter that can capture particles of 0.3 microns with 99.97% efficiency. Next, the crew goes over everything again with dry chemical sponges. And finally, they wipe the surfaces down with clean washrags.

This process will be repeated on every surface throughout the entire building.

A circular room without ceiling tiles with only ceiling grids and duct work exposed.
The fifth floor hemisphere room with ceiling tiles gone, exposing duct work in the ceiling. 

In the fifth floor, ceiling tiles have been removed, which makes the ductwork accessible for the cleaning crew.

A women with a yellow vest stands on a ladder vacuuming the metal grids on the ceiling.
A crew member HEPA vacuums near the ceiling before sponge cleaning.

All surfaces are cleaned with HEPA vacuums before they are wiped down with chemical sponges.

A women in a yellow vest holds a long pole with a chemical sponge to clean the inside of the ceiling and duct work.
A crew member uses a chemical sponge to wipe down the ceiling and duct work.

In order to reach every inch of the soot with a chemical sponge, the crews put them on long poles.

Two black trash bags sit next to each other. In the left bag are dirty yellow chemical sponges and in the right bag are brown dirty wash rags.
Used chemical sponges and rags have to be disposed of.

Emptying damaged furniture, construction materials and books from the library is part of the process of creating a clean slate. Day-to-day, sometimes it feels like a slow process that requires an overwhelming amount of labor. When we think about the big picture, though, it’s an exciting first step toward renovating Hale Library and creating a new, vibrant research environment that will serve the entire K-State community.

We’re taking a break for the rest of the week, but check back early next week for the latest Hale Library news! Have a fantastic Independence Day, all!

After the Hale Library Fire: What’s past is prologue

It started shortly after 4 p.m. on Tuesday, May 22.

Alarms went off in Hale Library. Employees reported smoke.

The building was safely evacuated, and emergency personnel from the Manhattan Fire Department, Riley County EMS, Fort Riley, Blue Township and others responded.

Firefighters on the roof of Hale Library.
Manhattan firefighters on the roof of Hale Library as the sun sets on May 22, 2018. Photo courtesy Manhattan Fire Department.

In order to save the structure, several hundred thousands of gallons of water flooded the building.

Outside of the library, the entire K-State community experienced system outages. To protect the university’s data center, which is located in Hale Library’s basement, online tools such as Webmail, HRIS, KSIS and others were taken offline. By June 4 —thanks to efforts from staff from multiple units across the university who worked round-the-clock—vital services were restored due to generator power.

Additionally, since the majority of the university’s library materials were unavailable, the Libraries made it a priority to restore interlibrary loan services as soon as possible. They were up and working again by June 1.

This is what K-State’s faculty, staff, and students experienced outside of Hale Library.

Inside of Hale Library, the damage was much, much worse than initially hoped. On May 24, President Richard Myers and Dean of K-State Libraries Lori Goetsch saw the destruction for the first time.

Dean Goetsch examines the damage.
Dean Lori Goetsch uses the flashlight on her cell phone to point out an outline left in the soot after wet books were removed from Room 117.

“To be honest it was pretty devastating,” Dean Goetsch told Brady Baumann of KMAN. “It was heartbreaking to see the amount of damage. In order to enter the library, we of course put on hard hats. We had to put boots on because the water was up to our ankles. … It was really sad. You know, I’ve been here for 14 years, and Hale … feels like home. … And it was like seeing your home damaged.”

Historic Farrell Library bore the worst of the destruction. Holes for the firefighting efforts were cut in the roof, and a lot of the water poured through that part of the building.

A stained glass window is reflected off of the standing water on the Great Room's floor.
The condition of the Great Room on May 24, 2018, two days after the fire.

Many K-Staters are familiar with Farrell Library’s iconic Great Room, but most are probably not aware that the 1927 building also houses the Academic Learning Center (ALC), K-State’s athletic tutoring facility. The ALC is an essential study location that provides vital tutoring services for student athletes.

The “We Have a Dream” mural, which was created 1978-80 by several multicultural student organizations, covers one large wall of the facility. The ALC will have to be gutted, and it is uncertain if the mural can be saved.

The “We Are the Dream” mural is draped in plastic sheeting while drywall removal is conducted in the ALC.

Below the ALC and Great Room, on Farrell Library’s second floor, the IT Help Desk, multiple iTAC offices and the Media Development Center were extensively damaged, as was the technology in those spaces.

Nevertheless, even as K-State Libraries administrators were absorbing the scope of the disaster, they were also launching the recovery process.

Within 48 hours, Belfor, an international disaster recovery and property restoration company, was on site to assess the damage.

On May 27, more than 75 Belfor workers began removing wet carpet and ceiling tiles from the library. By June 1, their ranks had grown to nearly 200 workers from eight states. They swarmed the site, performing assessment, cleaning and determining what could and could not be salvaged.

Walls of technology spaces have been taken down to the studs.
The ceiling tiles and the majority of the drywall in the Media Development Center on Hale Library’s second floor has been removed.

Most of the carpet and ceiling tiles in the building have been removed, and it’s estimated that about half of the drywall will need to come out.

Two weeks following the fire, all of Hale Library’s occupants—87 K-State Libraries faculty and staff members, 38 IT Services staff members, 2 Academic Learning Center employees and dozens of student employees— were generously welcomed into 13 temporary locations across the university.

Many, many challenges lie ahead for the recovery effort. Even today, there is very little lighting since electricity has not been restored. The generators on the lawn power dehumidifiers and air cooling units in an attempt to keep the temperature and humidity more manageable. On hot days, it reaches 90 degrees inside the building. Workers have to wear hardhats, vests, and respirator masks, so that combination makes the heat even more oppressive. The sheer scale of the recovery for the 550,000-square-foot Hale Library is immense, and there are new problems to be solved at every turn.

Some of the tubing that helps remove moisture from the building is piped out of the windows by the entrance to Hale Library’s main floor.

This blog will be our place to share our journey, and we hope you’ll follow along as we plan for the future.

The outpouring of support from faculty, staff, students, alumni, donors and other libraries around the country has been overwhelming. We are profoundly grateful for their generosity and kind words, and we know that with the K-State Family behind us, the long chapter ahead of us has a very, very bright ending for an exciting, new Hale Library.