May Day: Wet Recovery

80% of disasters involve water. Even in cases of fire, sprinkler systems can be activated and water damage results.

1. Take precautions before initiating collections salvage efforts. Survey structures and ensure their safety before entering.  Always use nitrile gloves to handle wet objects. In cases where you suspect contamination, use a respirator and protective coverings for your clothes.

2. Triage collection materials. Some need treatment or freezing within 24 hours to avoid mold, warping, and other moisture-induced problems. Other materials can wait 48 hours or longer. Consult the Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel and the National Park Service’s “Wet Collection Recovery” resource for more thorough guidelines.

Textiles: Use a substrate to lift—keep rolled textiles on tubes; slide a piece of board or a strong net underneath other textiles before lifting. Blot with absorbent materials—towels or disposable diapers. Press water out with palms, do not wring. Freeze items that cannot be dried within 48 hours. Freezing will kill mold and stop the bleeding of wet dyes. Consult a conservator in these cases.

Metals: Treat corroded metals within 48 hours. Place in a plastic container with silica gel to create a dry microclimate.

Wood: Wrap with absorbent materials. Lift from base of object; Air dry gradually

Basketry: Pad out with clean towels; keep lid on to reduce warping.

Books: Interleaf with clean, absorbent layers such as unprinted newspaper, paper towels, or blotting paper; change interleaf papers regularly. If spines are sturdy, open book and fan out pages to air dry.

Photos: Separate and rinse stable materials. Air dry by pinning with clothes pin on line.

Encapsulated works: un-frame or remove from other enclosures to air dry.

Glass and high-fired ceramics: Set aside until less stable materials have been treated. Blot gently and air dry.

3. Get help! The Triangle Area Cultural Resource Emergency Network (TACREN) has a new disaster hotline number (919-378-1702) that automatically delivers voicemail to 3 different members. Even if your institution is outside the Triangle, TACREN will offer advice and supply appropriate contacts for your collection salvage efforts. Through TACREN’s network, you can select reputable conservators and salvage companies to help you recover your collection treasures.


About collectionsconversations

This blog will contain posts from the C2C project staff on a variety of topics related to collections care and disaster preparedness. Enjoy the posts and let us know if you would like additional information or have a topic you would like for us to address.

Posted on May 1, 2012, in collections care, disaster preparedness, hurricanes and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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