When there is a threat of wildfires in the area, time is of the essence to safeguard collections. While the evacuation of a collection is the ideal solution, limited timing, access to packing materials, or the sheer volume of items, may prove it to be prohibitive.
If you need to evacuate and need to leave your collection behind, here are a few recommendations to help protect your pieces, and assist with potential recovery in the future
- Maintain an updated collection inventory and have a digital copy available to share, if needed, a digital copy makes it easy to share pertinent information with your insurance broker, adjuster, and specialists during the evacuation or recovery process.
- Identify 3-5 priority items – for evacuation or immediate recovery.
- Relocate items to interior rooms, away from exterior walls, windows, and exterior doors. Outdoor smoke can infiltrate windows and seams. They are also vulnerable to breakage, which could cause further adjacent pieces.
- Items should be elevated off the floor by 3” or higher. Elevating items prevent a piece from direct contact with standing water if water is used to eradicate a fire.
- Photograph or video the collection for future reference. If recording video, walk through the house, open drawers, cabinets, closets to document their contents. This is not only helpful for antiques and fine art but also will aid with other items in the event you have to make a claim.
- Designate a trusted local contact. This person can access and check on your home and collection in the event you are not able to.
- Cover items to create an additional barrier. While there is not a universal fireproof material that works in all situations, having an additional cover such as heavy plastic sheeting or a tarp, can not only help protect from water from overhead but will also reduce the exposure to atmospheric soot. In the past, I have observed pieces of paper and cardboard protecting the surface of a piece, which protected the work, and simplified the resulting treatment.
If you are in an area that is prone to wildfires, we recommend preparing for a longer-term plan to further safeguard your collection.
A few additional key components to include in your plan are:
- Identify the top 3-5 priority items for evacuation
- Keep materials on hand for potential evacuation.
- Contact your local art handling firm, learn about their services, and if secured storage is available in the future
- Create a file of documents including collection inventory, appraisal, insurance policy, and emergency contacts
There are many variables to consider to safeguard collections from the threat of fire and smoke damage. A little prevention can go a long way. These days, even a 60-second video walkthrough of a collection can significantly help with recovery efforts in the future.
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