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University of Michigan School of Information


Conservation lessons from Florence flood salvage efforts collected in new book

Friday, 08/31/2018

On November 4, 1966, the Arno River in Florence, Italy, flooded its banks, breaching the basements and first floors of museums, libraries and private residences, burying centuries of books, manuscripts, and works of art in muck and muddy water. 

It was the recovery of those materials, and the lessons learned and passed on, that prompted UMSI’s Paul Conway (PhD ’91) and his wife, Martha O’Hara Conway (MILS ’89), to lead a symposium on the 50th anniversary of the flood, in 2016, and to edit a book on that symposium’s proceedings. 

The book, Flood in Florence, 1966, A Fifty-Year Retrospective, has just been published.

“The 50th anniversary of this game-changing natural disaster was an opportunity for UMSI and the University Library to explore together how salvage techniques learned in an emergency have been applied in library preservation work and in formal education and training,” says Paul Conway. 

Book chapters include illustrated, first-person remembrances of the flood; papers on book conservation, the conservation of works of art, and disaster preparedness and response; the continuing need for education and training; and perspectives on, as the Conways write in their introduction to the book, “a future where original artifacts and digital technologies intersect.”

The book is available for purchase on Amazon and is freely available for online reading or downloading through the U-M Publishing Services’ Maize Books portal (

Paul Conway is associate professor of information; Martha O’Hara Conway is director of the Special Collections Research Center at U-M Library.


- Sheryl James, UMSI PR Specialist