Slowing the March of Time:
Preserving and Protecting Items of Personal and Historical Significance
Because Aunt Mable stored her papers in the shed under a leak, it doesn't mean that they are all beyond salvage. The same is true if a recent flood claimed your storage room, or a fire raged through your photo collection. Here we offer some general guidelines, but you might find yourself taking the most important items to a professional conservator:
Water/flood (high humidity):
Wet items can be very fragile, try not to handle by any surface - edges only.
Any mud or dirt that accumulates on an object needs to be removed.
Always use rubber gloves when handling objects because floodwaters can be contaminated.
If images are blurred, faded or feathered as a result of the water, do not attempt washing.
While item is still wet, agitate it in a bath of clear water or use fine hose spray to remove excess dirt.
Fans and dehumidifiers should be used for drying, indoors if possible.
Never aim airflow directly at air-drying materials, but position for maximum airflow around objects.
Use blotting material that is clean and absorbent such as blotter paper, unprinted newsprint paper, paper towels, rags, etc.
Screens that are well supported and stacked with space between them will compact drying surface.
A porous surface also assists in drying.
Glossy materials (magazines, paperbacks, photos, art books, etc.) might be given priority. They are likely to stick together when drying.
Interleave wax paper between each page, dry flat without layers if possible.
Fan books periodically while drying, interleave paper beyond the edges of the book to wick moisture away - stand on end, open for short periods of time.
For layers of items, wait until dry to try unfolding/separating.
Do not wring or twist textiles while wet, gently press with palm of hand only.
Do not stack wet items deeper than ½" while drying.
Some conservators suggest freezing to arrest mold growth - while this is fine while awaiting a professional conservator for most items, do not freeze photos or negatives.
Try to remove framed items from frame to dry - if they appear stuck, do not. Leave on stretcher.
Shaped objects like baskets and clothing should be supported and shaped as dried - gently pad with toweling, etc. - replace when wet.
Rinse metal objects immediately if soil removal is necessary and dry with soft cloth (caked mud should be allowed to dry - remove later).
* Items that have come apart place in clearly labeled open containers and contact a professional.
* Sunlight and heat may cause further damage during the drying process.
* Physical distortions may result, but the information/item will be saved.
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