Preserving Family Treasures

Tips to Limit Flood, Storm Damage to Family Heirlooms

Sunday, September 14 2008 17:05   Preservation
Tropical storms and other flood events such as rivers overflowing their banks are often termed disasters because of injuries, fatalities and the destruction of homes and businesses. Part of the disaster is the loss of family culture or heirlooms.

"I am so saddened by the stories of people who have lost so much from floods and storms," said National Park Service Director Mary A. Bomar. "They often look into the camera and tell us ‘they're only photos and we're alive' but those emotions can't hide the truth - loss of personal heirlooms is devastating."
Director Bomar said, "The National Park Service has been at the forefront in the effort to save, preserve and protect America's treasures for nearly a century. We have tips from our conservation and preservation experts so that people will be able to take actions to save family heirlooms before disaster strikes and tips for how to deal with flood-damaged items."

The National Park Service, along with other members of the Heritage Emergency National Task Force, also produced a public service announcement video to help families. It's available on-line at

The following tips are adapted from the Emergency Response and Salvage Wheel produced by Heritage Preservation in support of the Heritage Emergency National Task Force

Preparation before flooding:

Response and recovery after flooding:

Finally, think about calling in a professional.

If a precious item is badly damaged, a conservator may be able to help, agency experts said. Be sure to collect broken pieces, and set your treasures aside in a well-ventilated room until you find professional help.

To locate a conservator, contact the Guide to Conservation Services, American Institute for Conservation, (202) 452-9545. The web site can be found at

For reliable online information and links to professional conservation resources, see

Note: These recommendations are intended as guidance only. Neither the Heritage Emergency National Task Force, nor its sponsors Heritage Preservation and FEMA, assumes responsibility or liability for treatment of damaged objects.


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