Salvaging water damaged collections
Outlined in this guide are steps to salvage water damaged paper, book, photographic and audiovisual collections. It is important to attend to the damage as quickly as possible to prevent permanent damage and mould growth. The chart is designed for quick reference. If you require more detail or information on material not covered please contact us.
- Safety must always come first. Protect yourself by wearing Personal Protective Equipment (PPE); this includes heavy duty gloves, sturdy, closed-in footwear, protective eyewear and face masks (e.g. P2 respirator mask) as mould and other harmful contaminants may be present. Make sure you replace your mask regularly to ensure efficacy.
- If you do find mould, be aware that many moulds can be toxic and the necessary protective gear is needed. For more information, please refer to our guide Dealing with Mould.
Equipment and materials
The salvage methods outlined in the chart require the following:
- Plenty of absorbent paper such as paper towels, toilet paper or blotting paper (N.B. do not use printed paper as the dyes can run when wet, causing staining on objects.)
- Fans – to increase air circulation and speed up drying process
- Portable dehumidifiers – to bring humidity level down
- Clothesline or cotton tape or string
- Plastic clothes pegs
- HEPA filter vacuum cleaner for overall cleaning of furniture and flooring after salvage.
- Once you are able to safely access your home and your precious collections, you will need to work quickly and in a methodical manner. Do not panic.
- Use the chart to prioritise which material needs treating first.
- Firstly, move all items that are on the floor to clear your access path to other damaged materials.
- Begin your collection salvage with material labelled Salvage Priority 1 (see Salvage Chart).
- Find a location away from risk that is dust free, cool, well ventilated, and as dry as possible and set this up as your treatment area.
- Line tables and other flat surfaces with absorbent material such as paper towels, butchers paper, or blotting paper. These need to be changed regularly.
Creating the right salvage environment
- To speed up the drying process and to minimise mould growth, it is important to dry objects as quickly as possible thereby creating good air movement and lower humidity.
- Use fans to maximise air circulation and speed up drying. Keep them at a low speed and do not direct the air flow directly at drying materials.
- As high humidity will encourage mould growth, it is a good idea to use portable dehumidifiers. These can be hired from hire shops and a number of specialist suppliers. Please see our guide Suppliers of preservation materials and selecting safe enclosure materials.
- Do not use heaters or hair dryers as they will encourage the growth of mould and can cause distortion of certain objects.
- Remember to keep replacing absorbent paper when it becomes damp. If this is not done, there is a greater chance of mould activity and physical distortion.
- Keep all identifying information with the objects.
|Material||Salvage priority||Handling concerns||Salvage method|
|Photographic materials (including digital prints)||1 (requires immediate attention)|| || |
|Motion picture film||1|| || |
|Paper documents|| |
2 (can be frozen and treated later)
| || |
Buy some time:
|Books||2|| || |
Buy some time:
|Digital Media||1|| || |
|Video and Audio tapes||1|| || |
- AICCM Australian Institute for Conservation of Cultural Material
- AIC American Institute for Conservation
- The National Film and Sound Archives
The procedures described here have been used by State Library of Queensland in the care of its collections and are considered suitable by State Library as described; however, State Library will not be responsible for damage to your collections should damage result from the use of these procedures.
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