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Individuals May be Able To Salvage Valuable Flood-Damaged Items

Release date: 
September 29, 2011
Release Number: 

ALBANY, NY – Valuable photographs and family heirlooms that have been damaged by flood waters can sometimes be saved if certain procedures are followed, say emergency managers and restoration experts.

Photographs may be the only record of special occasions such as weddings, birthdays and graduations. Damaged photographs, for which there are no negatives, should receive attention first. It may not be possible to save photographs that have stuck together or become moldy.

Handle all wet photos carefully as the surfaces may be fragile. Wet photos may be washed and rinsed in clean water, if necessary, but be careful not to touch the surfaces.  Dry them face up in a single layer on a clean surface, such as a table, window screen or clean plastic.

Avoid drying the photos in direct sunlight as they may split, warp or fade. Photos may curl during drying, but they can be flattened later.

If a freezer is available, freeze the photos immediately after rinsing them. Seal several photos in plastic bags with a tie or in a Zip-Loc bag. If possible, place wax paper between each photo to prevent sticking. Later, they may be separated and air-dried.

Air circulation is essential for drying photos. Electric fans, when used carefully, can significantly help in drying and preserving your important mementos. If flood waters did not damage the negative, you can make additional prints.

Tips for Recovering Other Water-Damaged Valuables:

  • If the object is still wet, rinse with clear, clean water or a fine hose spray. Clean off dry silt and debris with a soft brush or dab with a damp cloth.
  • Air-dry objects indoors if possible.
  • Retard mold and mildew growth by reducing the humidity. Increase airflow with fans, air conditioners, dehumidifiers or open windows.
  • Avoid using disinfectants on historic wallpapers.
  • If objects are broken or begin to fall apart, place all broken pieces, bits of veneer and detached parts in clearly labeled open containers. Do not attempt to repair objects until completely dry, or in the case of important materials, until you have consulted with a professional conservator.
  • Documents, books, photographs, and works of art on paper may be extremely fragile when wet, so handle them carefully. If possible, free the edges of prints and paper objects in mats and frames and allow them to air dry.
  • Remove wet paintings from the frame but not from the stretcher. Air dry, face up, away from direct sunlight.
  • Furniture finishes and painting surfaces may develop a white haze or bloom from contact with water and humidity. These problems do not require immediate attention. Consult a professional conservator.

Further information is available at: NY SHPO website at, or call the Division for Historic Preservation at (518) 237-8643.

FEMA's mission is to support our citizens and first responders to ensure that as a nation we work together to build, sustain, and improve our capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards.

Last Updated: 
July 16, 2012 - 18:46
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