In 1996 KHS benefited from a crash course in preservation at the National Library of Australia in Canberra, that almost certainly played a part in saving nearly all of the KHS archives from a fire in 1999, which destroyed the Museum. The former Museum building was the former home of Resident engineer, Roy A. Hamilton and was known as "The Chalet." The new purpose-built Museum and Archive facility occupies the same position on Coolibah Drive.
What saved the KHS collection was oven bags! Yes you read right. Many plastics leak petro-chemicals into documents over time, so be very careful if you have any documents you have put into plastic. Oven bags have a crisp feel, and are archive safe to protect your documents and photographs. Any other plastic that has a "slippery feel" (not crisp like an oven bag) are almost certainly going to be petro-chemical based and should be avoided.
In the Kimberley we have some very harsh conditions and pests that can destroy documents in no time! The use of oven bags, which are available in large and various sizes. The large size bags can contain multiple files of documents. If documents are placed in oven bags and placed in archive safe boxes, they will also be protected from insect attack.
The fire in 1999 involved the Fire Brigade, which of course involves water! The oven bags almost certainly helped protect the archival records from major damage that water could have done.
If you have a disaster like this I hope you fare as well as KHS did and if these tips ever help save your records, please let us know!
Read more about Oven Bags ("The Rolls Royce & the Volswagen Methods"). Below is "The Chalet," the old KHS museum building (destroyed in 1999), during construction in 1960. The shed to the left was the first building erected at the new unofficial townsite at the end of 1959 and was temporary office of the Public Works Department.
1960 Resident Engineer (and former KHS Life Member) Roy Hamilton's house under construction [aka "The Chalet"] Kununurra circa November 1960 [?], Ord River Irrigation Area.
KHS Digital Archive Number KHS-2010-2-066-bn-PD
This photograph was digitised with the assistance of, a grant from the Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley, other Donors and Volunteers.
This was also the former KHS Archive, Museum and meeting place. The building fell victim to fire in 1999, caused by an electrical fault.
The present KHS Archive & Museum building, which was opened in 2001, with a major Federation Funding Grant, and grants from the Shire of Wyndham East Kimberley, LotteryWest and other donors, has been built on, and occupies this same site, on Coolibah Drive today, just 100 metres from the Post Office. When you visit make sure you visit the new archive, library, museum and research facility now on this site.