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Flood Damage And Valuable Documents
Flood damage causes a lot of problems, but in many cases the most severe problems may come from the damage done to valuable papers, documents, books, or artwork within the home or business. Family records that may be irreplaceable can be easily damaged by flood waters, and while there are some technical tips available to help decrease the chances of such a loss, they must be acted on rapidly and to the letter in order to avoid complete loss of information or data. Those objects with a high monetary, historic, or even sentimental value should be properly handled by a qualified conservator.
You have to remember that paper items are extremely fragile when they get wet, sometimes even with caked on mud and dirt. These materials may be contaminated, presenting a physical hazard if not properly treated. They may be agitated in a bath of clear water to remove dirt, but this treatment should be avoided if the materials are blurred, feathered, or faded as a result of flooding.
Ideally, wet books, papers, or art should be air dried as soon as possible following water damage. If this cannot be done within two days however, then the item should be frozen to prevent mold growth. In many cases, air circulation will be enough to dry out the materials, although in some cases there may be some physical distortions. Keep in mind that glossy materials like book covers and magazines may stick together, and may require interleaving in order to salvage effectively. Wax paper is recommended for the interleaving process, while volume of glossy paper dried in such a manner may result in physical distortion.
Books may be opened and stood on edge for drying of individual pages and covers. Interleaving paper should be used intermittently throughout the pages, as it provides a place for the water to go as it drains from the book. Interleaving paper should be replaced as it becomes saturated, with the volume inverted each time to ensure drying.
Photographs are highly susceptible to water damage and in many cases may be unrecoverable, but do what you can when it comes to not touching the picture or negative. Contact a conservator for advice on how to protect water damaged film or video. In some cases, they may be successfully air dried, face up, using blotting material beneath the photograph to absorb the excess water.
So yes, these fragile materials may be salvaged, but it is always recommended to call in a professional conservator. There is little or no room for error in this process, and you need a professional to make sure it is done correctly the first time.