DIY or Hire a Pro?
Step 1: Key Questions
How much artwork has been affected?
How much is wet, moldy or otherwise damaged?
What are your financial resources to implement a salvage plan?
Are you emotionally able to proceed?
Do you have insurance coverage?
Can you get supplies, volunteers, a dry and secure space for the work?
Step 2: What are your salvage priorities?
A damage assessment will help you determine what is most important:
Are there works (yours and others) that have particular significance (in terms of aesthetic, career or monetary reasons)?
Are there art supplies and archival materials that are critical to restarting your creative work?
If you’re going to carry out a course of salvage by yourself, preplanning is the key. It requires understanding salvage techniques and their sequencing, having adequate workspace, the right supplies and equipment, and a team of people to assist. AND it requires time!
Using the Services of a Salvage Vendor
If the damaged area is greater than 10 sq. ft., using a commercial company specializing in disaster recovery is advisable. A salvage vendor can perform a wide range of services for you, but may not be well-versed on what is best for your artwork. Certain salvage methods, such as ozone treatments for odors, can adversely affect cellulosic materials and should be avoided. It’s important to have a clear idea of what you want a salvage vendor to do — and not do.
How/When an Art Conservator can Help
In many cases, you can do the initial stabilization procedures, but you will need the specialized services of a professional to undertake the follow up conservation work:
A conservator can quickly assess the type of damage, but can also tell you what you can expect from post-disaster treatments. Some conservation methods are very successful at returning items almost to their pre-event condition, while certain types of damage will not have good results with treatment.
A conservator can help establish salvage and treatment procedures and may save you time and money in the long run. Many conservators are trained in emergency response and because they work on large batches of artifacts at one time, they may be able to help with sequencing the work.
For complex items, such as paintings that are damaged by soot, water, mud, or mold, a consultation with a conservator can be especially useful. Porous materials and surfaces like bone and ivory can be salvaged most effectively if a professional sets a protocol for the process.