What generally comes to mind during the hot months of summer are beaches, swimming, barbeques, picnics, vacation … what we don’t like to think about are the tropical storms, flooding, mud slides, hurricanes, earthquakes and other various catastrophic events that happen throughout the world. I, myself, have been fortunate enough to never have gone through such an occurrence, but those who have seem to explain that their heartache is not specifically because of their car, their house, their ravaged property…but rather, they lost their daughters baby pictures, their wedding photos, military documents, their son’s first finger painting, as well as high school and college diplomas.
The good news is, these precious keepsakes may still be salvageable! Even if a photograph or important document is completely soaked, as long as the area is not contaminated, it can be saved, according to Heritage Preservation. If a flood results in damage of irreplaceable photography, such as pictures from a wedding, anniversary, graduation, or vacation, it may be possible to reproduce them from negatives or digital files. But if not, what can you do to salvage the damaged image?
Steps to care for damaged photos and documents:
- Be careful not to touch the fragile surface of wet photographs
- If the photograph or document is in a frame, remove them immediately to dry on its own
- Rinse the surface of the photo or document with clean water
- If photos need to be transferred, you may stack them, but only after putting a sheet of wax paper between each photo. Then place them in a ventilated bag
- Place them in a freezer of refrigerator if you can not attend to them right away
- Do not place them in a plastic bag if you can not get them into a freezer right away. Sealing damp items cause mold to grow and deteriorate your piece
- When ready, separate each photo and dry them, face up on a clean/dry surface. Be sure to open a window, or increase air circulation with a fan, air conditional or dehumidifier to reduce risk of mold or mildew
- Make sure not to put them in direct sunlight since it may dry the photo or document too quickly causing splits, buckling or other irreversible damage
- If you are concerned about your photo curling, or the extent of the damage, take it to your local conservator, or framing specialist
- Please note that if the photographs have dried while stuck together or have become moldy, it may not be possible to save them
With a little patience and care, your fond memories may still be salvageable in the event of a natural disaster.
More information on taking care of damaged keepsakes can be found here:
- American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works – Resource Center
- Library of Congress – Care, Handling, and Storage of Works on Paper
- Heritage Preservation – Save Your Treasures the Right Way