COLUMBUS, Ohio (September 4, 2020)—The COVID-19 crisis has raised questions that library and museum workers have never had to ask themselves before: How long does a virus last on materials?
What about stacked books versus unstacked books? Or paper-based collection materials versus plastic-based items? How long should materials be quarantined? Are some materials safer to circulate than others? How can we mitigate exposure to staff and visitors? Is it safe to reopen?
The REopening Archives, Libraries, and Museums (REALM) project aims to make these questions easier to answer. REALM—a collaboration among organizations OCLC, the Institute of Museum and Library Services, and science and technology development nonprofit Battelle Memorial Institute—has been conducting research since April 22 on how long the COVID-19 virus survives on materials common to libraries, archives, and museums.
The project, which will continue until September 2021, includes three phases. The first phase (May–August 2020) involved research on high-priority materials and workflows. In the second phase (June–October 2020), researchers are studying materials and workflows not addressed in Phase 1 but still important to the function of archives, libraries, and museums. The third phase, scheduled to begin in October and run through September 2021, involves monitoring and reviewing emerging research. Four sets of test results have been announced as part of Phase 2.
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