Emergency Drying Procedures for Water Damaged Collections

With Hurricane Sandy in the not-so-distant past, arts and cultural organizations located along the east coast have months of damage assessment and emergency collections care ahead of them. How could’ve they prepared and, now that the storm has hit, what resources are available to them?

The American Alliance of Museums recently distributed via email a concise overview of emergency preparedness and response resources. Here is an excerpt of what they had to say.


The American Institute for Conservation of Historic & Artistic Works (AIC) has a Cultural Emergency Response Team (CERT) to respond to the needs of cultural institutions during emergencies. Team members are available to provide assistance and to come to the affected site as soon as it is accessible. Contact 202-661-8068 for 24-hour assistance or to arrange for a team to come to the site to complete damage assessments and help with salvage organization.

Heritage Preservation has links to disaster response and recovery resources, contact information for key state emergency management and cultural agencies, FEMA regional environmental officers, and a damage reporting tool for cultural heritage institutions and sites.

Online Recovery Guides

The Library of Congress Preservation Directorate offers “Emergency Drying Procedures for Water Damaged Collections.” It has concise information that covers air-drying of paper, books and photographs and recovery from mold.

The Minnesota Historical Society shares salvage procedures for a wide variety of materials, including textiles, photographs, wooden objects, leather, paintings and paper.

The National Park Service (NPS) offers “After the Flood: Emergency Stabilization and Conservation Measures.” It suggests planning methods to prevent additional damage to historic structures and to maintain historical integrity.

The NPS also provides a Rapid Building and Site Condition Assessment form. The document can be used to quickly assess conditions within a disaster region; it has an emphasis on historic structures. Instructions on using the form and definitions are also available.

The National Trust for Historic Preservation provides “Treatment of Flood-Damaged Older & Historic Buildings.” It discusses cleaning out mud, foundation problems, caring for wet plaster, treatment for saturated wood framed walls and floors and treatment for historic wallpapers and interior finishes.

The Western Association for Art Conservation offers “Salvage at a Glance.” The quickly readable chart outlines priorities, handling precautions, packing and drying methods for archival materials.

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