Emergency Care

Wildfire

Initial Recovery of

Fire Damaged Collections

 

By April Hann Lanford

Wildfire, Initial Recovery of Fire Damaged Collections

By April Hann Lanford

Time is of the essence when fine art, artifact and furniture collections are exposed to soot and smoke.  The longer soot rests on the surface, the more difficult it can become to successfully clean.

The following are a few proactive steps to start safeguarding and recovering a compromised collection:

  • Safety first-Check with local authorities to confirm that it is safe to return. Your personal safety is the most important. In addition to structural instability of buildings and homes, there is also the risk of flash floods and mudslides that might follow.
  • Proper PPE-Before entering, make sure you are wearing the proper safety equipment for the environment. Heavy soled shoes, gloves and a mask are an absolute must.
  • It may seem counter-intuitive but take your time-Remember that you are working in a compromised environment. There may be limited lighting, the structure will likely be compromised, there will be broken glass and debris to navigate on the floor. The items you are handling might also be compromised and require even greater attention when moving.
  • Image-Upper RightAn example of working in a compromised environment, antique ceiling tiles are delaminating and falling from the ceiling.  These are a risk to personal safety, but these are also are at risk of further damage, and potential loss, if recovery crews are not aware of their importance in this historic home.

Image-Lower RightLimited lighting, unstable walls, broken glass and construction debris can all pose a safety risk and complicate recovery efforts.

The following are a few proactive steps to start safeguarding and recovering a compromised collection:

  • Safety first-Check with local authorities to confirm that it is safe to return. Your personal safety is the most important. In addition to structural instability of buildings and homes, there is also the risk of flash floods and mudslides that might follow.
  • Proper PPE-Before entering, make sure you are wearing the proper safety equipment for the environment. Heavy soled shoes, gloves and a mask are an absolute must.
  • It may seem counter-intuitive but take your time-Remember that you are working in a compromised environment. There may be limited lighting, the structure will likely be compromised, there will be broken glass and debris to navigate on the floor. The items you are handling might also be compromised and require even greater attention when moving.
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Wildfire debris recovery photo taken by April Hann Lanford Artifact art restoration services Artmill Group
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Be mindful of mold-Even though you are dealing with fire damage, the items were likely exposed to water, whether from water used to put out the fire, or fluctuations in humidty that lead to condensation. If the collection has sat in an uncontrolled enviromnent, there may also be active mold.

Image-Left-Condensation dripped down the face of the glass on this frame, seeping into the mat inside.  The 22k gilded frame was damaged from the moisture as well exposure to soot.  The artwork was able to be successfully treated with minimal intervention and the frame restored. 

Upon arrival, document the space and collection with photos and video This will help in a variety of ways, to track items, to identify the scope of damage as well as establish a timeline in the recovery process.

Create an inventory and identify priority items for care-Timing is critical during the aftermath.  It is important to focus on the most important items first before proceeding with the rest of the collection.

 

Always wear gloves when handling items exposed to soot.  The oil on your fingers can cross link with the soot and further embed the soot into the surface of the piece.

Minimize handling of the items as much as possible.  Soot is acidic and abrasive.  The exposure to heat can also cause further instability to a surface.  The more a piece is handled, the greater the risk of further damage.

Contact a conservator– A conservator can help with the recovery, prioritization, triage and relocation of the affected items after a fire. The sooner the items can be addressed, the better the results for treatment. The longer soot is on a surface the harder it can be to successfully remove.

Always remember-It is important to never assume that a piece cannot be successfully treated.  Often a piece, even with catastrophic damage, can be successfully treated. You should always check with a conservator for options.  The documentation completed early on in the process is a great way to start the conversation about options and costs for potential treatment. 

 

There are many variables to consider when safeguarding collections and recovering items after a fire loss. While a lot of collectors do not have access to offsite storage to safely evacuate their items when a wildfire looms, these preventive steps can go a long way.  These days, even a sixty-second video walk through of a collection can significantly help with recovery efforts in the future.

During the aftermath when local resources for response and recovery are inundated, taking the proactive measures listed above can significantly impact the successful recovery of your collection.

The most important lesson to remember is to never assume that a piece is a loss. The field of conservation offers a combination of traditional techniques and modern technology which can yield a lot of successful options for treatment of a piece.  The sooner an item can be addressed, the better the results. 

If you have questions, or want to learn more about services, please contact us at:

312-344-0331

April@artifactservices.com

Emergency Care

24/7 Hotline(901) 2-RESCUE

Examinations, condition reports, and related cost estimates

can be completed at one of our studios, online or onsite

Call or email us today to work with us on your project 

At Our Studios

Clients are welcome to make an appointment to drop off items at one of our studio locations for an estimate.

Upon completion of the assessment, we will follow up with a written condition report and treatment proposal for your approval.

Custom framing appointments can also be made at any of locations.

To schedule an appointment please feel welcome to email, call, or submit an inquiry via through our form at the bottom of the page.

Online

We also welcome inquiries through email.

If you have questions about a general treatment or need an approximate cost for a project, you can send images and information about your piece.  When possible please include the following information:

Title, Artist, Medium, and Size

Condition Observations and Concerns

Images of the front and back, with any details.

We will call you to follow up and gather any further pertinent information.

Onsite

Clients are welcome to make an appointment to drop off items at one of our studio locations for an estimate.

Upon completion of the assessment, we will follow up with a written condition report and treatment proposal for your approval.

Custom framing appointments can also be made at any of locations.

To schedule an appointment please feel welcome to email, call, or submit an inquiry via through our form at the bottom of the page.

Contact

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april@artifactservices.com
(312) 344-0331
Main Location: 840 N. Milwaukee Ave.
Chicago, IL  60642

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