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CKUA’s historic music library flooded

Photos by Marc Carnes

We’re sad to report that a section of CKUA’s music library experienced a flood on January 16, due to a burst pipe in the sprinkler system. Some of our most treasured LPs got wet, and our team is working hard to salvage them and minimize the damage. This is a heartbreaking event, but we are so grateful for the CKUA team and the staff-members who responded quickly. Arianne Smith-Piquette, who leads the Content team, immediately rallied all available staff who were in the building. They assisted with moving the affected LPs and begin the process to preserve them and dry them out.

A whole team of people, including CKUA staff and insurance and remediation experts, will work in the coming days to respond to this and preserve what we can. We are still working to determine how many records were damaged, and how many may be lost.

CKUA remains committed to sharing music with the community. New and old. Sometimes from digitized files, and sometimes from these beloved LPs.

Photo by Marc Carnes
Photo by Marc Carnes
Photo by Marc Carnes
Photo by Adam Mitchell

“For those of you who have your own collections, you know that the LP is only half of what makes an album special. The jackets tell a story, from the artwork to the extensive liner notes. Our collection covers a hundred years of recorded sound; the section of the LP library that was damaged in this flood is our jazz collection. These early jazz LPs cover the 1960-1980s and since they pre-date our digital biography archival system, the jackets are covered in handwritten notes from hosts—extra biography notes, recommendations on tracks, and more. The legacy knowledge passed down to our hosts is also irreplaceable and impossible to value with insurance. The first step will be to preserve and save the original by professionally drying and pressing the jackets. If it’s irreparable, we will work on scanning the jackets and notes. Everyone involved in this heartbreaking turn of events is working on saving the collection from damage, and understands that the Big John Patton album put out on Blue Note in 1970 is not going to be easily replaceable.” – Arianne Smith-Piquette, Interim Content Director


Photos by Arianne Smith-Piquette

In good times and in tough times, we operate as a not-for-profit organization that relies on donor support to do our work. Donations will help fund restoration and repair beyond what insurance is able to cover. Your support keeps the music playing and contributes to emerging needs at CKUA, like the restoration of our library.

Thank you to all who have responded already. Your comments and support mean the world to us. Stay tuned for more information about this project and our efforts to restore and protect CKUA’s music library.

UPDATE: January 23

photo by Adam Mitchell

Significant progress has been made in preparing the affected areas of the library for restoration work. Dust and debris containment is in place so the restoration work can happen without filling the library full of construction dust.

A large section of our LP stacks had to be removed and boxed for protection. The photograph above gives a sense of the scale.

All affected walls have now been opened up and thoroughly dried. The contractors are optimistic about beginning the process of closing up these walls and replacing the damaged flooring and ceiling soon. We anticipate that within a week, we may be able to start the complex task of re-shelving the LPs. This will be a mammoth undertaking, since much of the collection was not maintained in order during its removal from the stacks.

The damaged album covers have been transported to the restoration company’s facility. There, specialists will attempt to preserve and flatten the sleeves. Our hope is to eventually reunite the vinyl records with their original artwork and liner notes, preserving as much of their historical and cultural value as possible.

We are so grateful for the support from the CKUA community. Thank you to everyone who has offered to look through their own record collection to help replace any damaged records. We can’t accept record donations at this time. We are still cataloguing what can and cannot be saved, and we don’t know the extent of the damage. We will let our community know in the future if we are seeking album donations.

As we look forward, we are overwhelmed by the response from our community. Heartfelt thanks to all who have responded to the news of our emergency with encouraging comments and financial support. Your donation will help fund restoration and repair beyond what insurance will cover. We will keep you posted as progress on this important project continues!

Hear Adam Mitchell, CKUA’s Chief Operating Officer, speak with CBC’s Jessica Ng on Radio Active.