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One third of the building’s third and fourth floors suffered water damage.Rob Maguire/The Canadian Press

A collection of more than 3,000 restaurant menus, scores of records, photos slides and other archive material are among the items heavily damaged following an arson at Emily Carr University of Art and Design here this month.

Vancouver police announced Tuesday they have charged a 40-year-old Vancouver man in the Oct. 5 fire on the fourth floor of the university’s new building, which opened near the city’s trendy Mount Pleasant neighbourhood in 2017.

Ten days after the blaze, university staff have a more clear picture of the damage, which they say could potentially erase part of the school’s history. Meanwhile, students have been disrupted, with nearly two dozen classrooms remaining off limits.

While the fire was quickly extinguished, one third of the building’s third and fourth floors suffered water damage, as well as at least half of the art school’s archive collection, stored three floors below where the fire occurred.

“Fortunately, very few personal effects or artworks were affected,” the university said in a news release. However, the archive material was drenched by water, which had seeped from the building’s upper levels.

The school has since shipped 75 boxes of files to be freeze-dried in an effort to prevent any mould growth. It’s difficult to assess what exactly can be saved until that stage is complete, librarian Suzanne Rackover says.

“This could impact the way we reconstruct our history,” she added.

“As you have people leave and retire, more and more of that information disappears with them. So, without being able to look back at these records, we’re not really able to construct a history of this institution.”

Emily Carr will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2025.

Rob Maguire, the art school’s director of marketing and communications, said the university “has no reason to believe” the suspect is connected to the school.

Emily Carr has reopened to students, but nearly two dozen classrooms remain closed, as are key student resources such as the textiles and wood workshops. The university hopes to reopen most rooms over the next three weeks, but expects the building’s restoration will continue throughout the semester. The repair work has been complicated by the school’s complex, reinforced walls, which were specifically designed to support hanging art.

This disruption has left many students in a state of limbo.

“It’s definitely not fun to have one week already taken away from your paid tuition and then have to come back and know that you’re now going to be late three more weeks if you need the technologies [on the upper floors],” said industrial design student Daniel Periana, 21.

As more security guards now patrol the halls, some students wonder why 24-hour security was not in place before the break-in.

“A lot of people leave their artwork here, so [knowing] someone can come in and just destroy it is pretty disheartening,” said Julia De La Puente Calvo, a 19-year-old industrial design student.

Since the incident, Emily Carr has introduced a 24-hour security presence for an indefinite amount of time, Mr. Maguire said. The university is reviewing its security protocols, but insists its former monitoring system was adequate.

Nathan MacLeod, 40, is charged with two counts of breaking and entering and one count of arson. He was scheduled to appear in a B.C. provincial court on Tuesday.

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