Saving photos, needleworks & artworks damaged by the 2013 floods
Our thoughts and prayers go out to the people who have been affected by ex-cyclone Ozwald that ravaged our Queensland coast and then caused havoc down into Northern NSW. I have friends who have lost entire homes and others who are dealing with the flooding again only two years on from the last floods. I am still amazed by their positivity and ability to look at the bright side of their situations.
It is hard to imagine losing everything you worked hard for in an instant but the one thing that people are most upset at losing are the family photos and treasures that they have held dear, the things that cannot be replaced. There is hope. These special memories are not necessarily lost. There is a chance they can be saved and restored.
In the Brisbane floods of 2011, I was able to help restore and clean many photos, tapestries and other artworks. Whole albums that had been submerged in a basement storage were able to be at least 50% saved. Photos when they are processed through traditional machine processes go through chemical baths - so they can withstand water. It is all about acting quickly. With photos wash them in clean water bath and leave them to dry (not stacked on top of each other). You can lay them flat or even hang them on a clothes line by just pegging the corner. This is how traditional black and white photos were dried in a dark room. They may curl but can be flattened. It is also suggested to add a few drops of dishwashing liquid to the water as a wetting agent. This helps with the drying process.
Artworks and other framed pieces such as needleworks can also often be cleaned and restored if you act quickly. I remember some beautiful tapestries that were brought in that had been flood damaged. The frames were a write off, but after washing, treating for mould and airing they could be reframed and treasured for years to come.
The key to any restoration and cleaning is acting as soon as possible. Take protective cautions with gloves and masks in case of broken glass, mould or other water born disease. Remove the piece from its frame or casing, clean it gently by wiping lightly with a damp cloth (if needed) and then let it dry. Do not soak artworks like you can with photos. After that take it to a professional to see what other steps need to be taken. If you don’t feel confident or you don’t have the time, get them straight down to a professional framer. If you can do these steps yourself, then it will not only save you some money it will also help in the saving of your treasured items.
After the 2011 floods I heard so many stories of well meaning helpers who threw out so many special things, some things that just needed washing. Please remember that many items can be cleaned and restored. If you are not sure then don’t toss it. Wash it gently and ask a professional.
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