Wet/frozen, dirty, rumpled and smelly. That was the state of the valuable books and manuscripts that survived the Christmas Eve 1981 fire that ravaged the historic Economics building and destroyed the department’s library. Jim Craven, Conservator at the Bentley Historical Library, will explain the complicated process of recovering after the disaster. University Food Service trucks and the vacuum chamber at the UM Aerospace Building supplied freeze-drying to remove the wet/frozen component, but what a mess!

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In the news

The oldest classroom building on the University of Michigan campus and valuable manuscripts and books inside were destroyed by fire on Christmas Eve, the authorities said. The building, opened in 1856, was the first in the world to be devoted entirely to chemistry instruction and later was turned over to the economics department, the university said.

Built in 1856 at the request of President Tappan, the "chemical laboratory for analytical courses" was one of the first in the world devoted exclusively to laboratory instruction in chemistry. Originally only three rooms, it was expanded many times, and provided 135 lab benches by 1868. After a new chemistry building was erected in 1909, the economics department occupied the old building until it was destroyed by fire in 1981.