Restoration Of Flooded Library


Unusually heavy monsoon rains during the week of 21st August 2000 caused severe flooding in Hyderabad, the capital of the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh. The flood reached its zenith Thursday 24th August 2000 when a fifteen-foot wall of water inundated much of the city. Flooding ravaged the Sundarayya Vignana Kendram building which houses two major library collections. Within minutes both collections were completely submerged in water.(More information on the Sundarayya Vignana Kendram is available at:

Photographs from the scene are at: Press clippings are at A video on the disaster and recover efforts is at A pair of essays by Marshall Oliver describing the freeze-drying of the collections appeared in the March and April 2003 issues of Cleaning & Restoration. The text is available for online viewing at of the two collections held at Sundarayya Vignana Kendram is the American-owned Urdu Research Centre (URC) collection. The URC is an innovative collaboration between a consortium of distinguished American universities and an Indian organization, the Sundarayya Vignana Kendram, to provide better access to important literary and historical resources for scholars throughout the world. The U. S. partners, including the universities of California-Berkeley, Chicago, Michigan, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Texas-Austin, Washington, Wisconsin, Columbia University and Harvard University, purchased the collection from a private bibliophile. The library is maintained and preserved at the Sundarayya Vignana Kendram in Hyderabad in a new paradigm of collection development that provides for the equitable sharing of important resources by Indian and U.S scholars (More information on URC is available at: URC is widely considered one of the world's finest collections of Urdu periodicals and printed books. Most imprints date from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries and very few are available in any U.S. library. There are over 26,500 books in the collection. The 2,600 journals represent numerous disciplines and describe a century and a half ofIndian life and scholarship. (More on the collection is available at:

The main Research Library at the Sundarayya Vignana Kendram has a rich collection of rare books, journals, newspapers, reports, pamphlets, manuscripts, private papers, and other materials in different languages. The collection is particularly rich in Telugu and English language material throwing light on socio-cultural, economic and political histories, and popular movements of all types in central India from the 12th through 20th centuries.

First news of the flood reached the U.S. via e-mail on Thursday morning, 24th August 2000. Participating universities and the conservation community immediately responded to the crisis with a series of communications to experts who contributed essential technical advice that was promptly made available on a Web site. Invaluable instruction on the immediate handling of the crisis came from the Preservation Office at the Library of Congress, the Northeast Document Conservation Center, the Weissman Preservation Center at Harvard University Library, the Preservation Department at Columbia University Libraries, and the Preservation Department at the University of Chicago Library. The Association for Research Libraries, the Center for Research Libraries, the Council of American Overseas Research Centers, and the Library of Congress New Delhi Field Office also assisted in a variety of ways.

Dr. Atlury Murali and Mr. C. Sambi Reddy of Sundarayya Vignana Kendram urgently marshaled resources to save the collections. The consensus of conservation experts was that the collections must be frozen to stabilize them and prevent the growth of mold. Through their dedication and hard work the advice of experts is being acted upon with expedition. Diesel pumps were brought in to pump out the water. Plastic crates were found in which to move the books. Freezer facilities were secured together with clean water needed to rinse the soiled materials before freezing. Most importantly, volunteers were organized to carry out these critical tasks. To this point, the effort to salvage the collection has been a model for crisis management.Only five days after the flood, all of the materials from the collections held at Sundarayya Vignana Kendram were stored in freezers around the city of Hyderabad. The University of Chicago and Late Shri Lavu Balagangadhara Rao raised more than TWO CRORE RUPEES and restored the entire collection to its' original state.  All the printed materials and manuscripts were recovered and the Research Library was opened to pubic in 2003 itself.

The Sundarayya Vignana Kendram is now on a crucial mission of establishing a state of the art laboratory comprising new technologies of retrieval so that the Kendram can intervene and restore whenever such natural calamities takes a toll on the written heritage anywhere in India.The Sundarayya Vignana Kendram Trust would be grateful to the public and institutions for contributions towards the furthering of its' activities. The donations could be send to either of the addresses below. All the donations are exempted under Section 80G of Indian Income Tax Act.

Sundarayya Vignana Kendram,
Baghlingam palli,
Hyderabad -500044,
Andhra Pradesh,
Tele: [Office] 91-40-27667543;
[Res.] 91-40-27668325
Brochure developed by Sundarayya Vignana Kendram detailing the flood (in Telugu) available as 4 web images, or as a PDF document. (Please note, the PDF file is rather large and takes awhile to open.)