Tornado-damaged artworks

We are thinking of all the people in Dallas affected by the tornado. If you have questions and need guidance in rescuing artworks, you can call the National Emergency Responders at (202) 661-8068 or TX-CERA at (669)-237-2243.

To find a local qualified conservator, use the search function on the American Institute for Conservation (AIC) website: https://www.culturalheritage.org/membership/find-a-conservator

A few quick tips to stabilize and avoid further damage to water-damaged or impact-damaged artworks until you are able to contact a conservator.

Remember: your safety comes first! For general guidelines on how to approach an emergency:  https://txcera.org/emergency-response/

For framed artworks: if the artwork is not stuck to the glass, carefully remove from frame in a safe and dry place. If you notice that the paint is lifting off the surface or if you see minute losses, do not unframe. Place painting face up on elevated blocks to provide air circulation. If the glass protecting your watercolor is broken, pay attention not to scratch the artwork when handling it.

For photographs: if there are wet, do not allow them to dry in a pile. They will “block” and it’ll be impossible to separate them. Rinse them with clean, cool water and hang them to air dry. If too dirty to clean, put them in a container with clean water and take them to a conservator within 48 hours. Or you can interleave them with waxed paper and freeze them until you’ll have time to take them to a conservator. Do not freeze glass plate negatives.

For books: if partially wet, stand on top or bottom edge, open to 90 degree angle, and let them air dry. Photographic images need to be interleafed, otherwise they will block (dry inseparably). If you don’t have time or space to air dry all your books, start with a few and wrap in waxed paper (with interleaf as needed) and freeze the other ones. You can get them out and air dry them a few at the time.

For furniture: gently sponge surface to clean, blot, air dry slowly. If the uppermost layer dries too quickly while the inner part remains wet, the wood will warp and crack. Hold wood veneer in place with weights or clamps. Contact a conservator as soon as possible. If upholstery, remove cushions and seats and separate all the pieces; use dry towels or sheets to wrap the upholstered pieces and change the absorbent material as it becomes wet.

For ceramics: keep the pieces together in boxes. If possible, make sure the fragments don’t collide in the box; it’ll minimize the losses along the edges of the fragments.

For metals: handle with gloves, clean with soft sponge and blot dry; if object has an applied finish, do not attempt to clean. Air dry.

For textiles: fabrics become saturated with water and they are at risk of damage when handling them. Make sure the textile is supported. Do not stack wet textiles. Rinse, drain and blot textiles with clean towels to remove excess water. Shape textile to its original form. Air dry using fans.