In a screen adaptation of Richie Rich, the famous
comic strip about the kid multi-millionaire who never ceases to amaze people with
his incredible wealth, his parents were held hostage in an attempt to penetrate
their secret vault were the family's supposedly untold riches were kept. The
perpetrators managed to open the vault but were surprised to see only a few family
memorabilia instead of gold or precious stones. The father explained that the Rich
family valued these things more than wealth and these were considered their
most cherished treasures.
This could be true in one form or another anywhere
else. In the event of disasters such as floods, fires and tropical cyclones
that could wreak havoc on the community and destroying structures, businesses
and homes, nothing can be more devastating to a family than the loss of
irreplaceable mementos. These include original photos, family heirlooms and
vintage photographs that no ordinary scanners or printers could ever reproduce.
With the coming season for typhoons and tropical
storms fast approaching and would be expected to hit several states in the
coming months, people would expect high alerts sounding off once more telling households
and communities to prepare for any eventualities. Homeowners located in
susceptible areas should prepare themselves for any possible danger and
eventual water damage that this season could bring and this usually includes potential
damage to documents, books, papers and photographs. Unless proper document
drying and document restoration techniques are performed, homeowners could lose
a considerable amount of money as well as very valuable or even priceless
One may think that if they see a precious photograph
floating around in the muck and floodwaters it would all be utterly hopeless
and would signify the end of that particular item. But they can be wrong as
various techniques and methods that are very cost-effective can be employed to save
these water-damaged photographs and restore them back to pristine conditions.
The Intrinsic Value of Photographs
As implied earlier, more tears would be shed by
homeowners over lost or damaged family memorabilia than damaged furniture or
appliances. The latter can be easily replaced by a similar brand or even an
updated model, but rare and one-of-a-kind family remembrance items could never
be replaced. Such photos and other family mementos have sentimental and
intrinsic values that only the members of the family would consider priceless.
Digital copies could be a great alternative for
ordinary or standard photos as you can store them in flash memories or even
DVDs. However, quite a few would have taken the time to scan each and every old
photo they have since childhood and store them in digital media. But what if
the homeowner has not planned for a project like this yet and then disaster
struck? Ouch! Who would blame them for shedding tears for a tragedy such as
And here's another tragedy. What if the homeowner
managed to make replicas of these old photos and stored these copies in digital
media, but then disaster struck and drenched everything in the house – photos,
drives, memory, all? Some of the memory could be retrieved through water damage
restoration techniques but there is no sure guarantee that everything would be
An original and vintage photograph is definitely
irreplaceable and no amount of scanning or high-tech printing could ever
replace its true value. Such photos would not only be valuable to the family but
would have some monetary value as well for collectors and even historians.
Getting such valuable items all drenched in floodwater or water from a
malfunctioning fire sprinkler system would be a terrible disaster. Such tragedies
would require an effective document drying and document restoration process in
order to save them from utter destruction.
Protecting the Emulsion Side
The most important and delicate part of any
photograph is the emulsion side. This is the side where the image is developed
or printed and is very sensitive to touch, moisture or wetness. Rubbing the
emulsion side or getting it into contact with another surface would permanently
damage the emulsion and the image.
During document restoration or attempting document
drying for water-damaged photographs, it would be vital to avoid touching or
coming into contact with the emulsion side. This is the first and most
important consideration to make particularly when trying to pick up
water-drenched photographs from the flood water.
In some cases, whole photo albums could get drenched
in flood water with the valuable photos still inside. In such cases, it would
be important to pull out the photos one by one while still wet but while doing
this process it is imperative to avoid touching the emulsion side. Be careful
not to stack wet photos on top of one another and instead lay them out
individually during the document drying process.
Preliminary Considerations before Performing
Before attempting a document drying and document
restoration process for water-damaged photographs, there are certain
preliminary considerations that need to be addressed first.
* Water-damaged photographs should undergo document
drying or document restoration within two days. There is a big possibility that
the photos will begin to stick to each other or mold begins to form and starts
attacking the photo material. Such complications eventually destroy these
photos and in turn they become irreparable.
* The first thing to do when performing document
drying is to separate the photos from the water source. Whether the source is a
simple liquid spill, a malfunctioning sprinkler system or a tropical cyclone,
restoration starts by separating the photos from the body of water.
* If you need to make a choice as to what
photographs you should begin with, start with the "rarer" so to
speak. This includes antique photographs, vintage photos, and those without
negatives available or those with damaged negatives.
* Vintage, antique or family heirloom photos are
quite sensitive and could easily be damaged, much more in their wet conditions.
For such pieces of valuable photos, it would be best to consult and get advice
from restoration experts on how to proceed.
* Water-drenched or soaked picture frames are
another consideration to look into. It would be best to separate the photo from
the frame itself while it is still wet. This would prevent the photo from
sticking to the frame surface as it dries up.
* Do not dry photos while they are stacked on top of
one another. Each individual photo should be separated and laid out for drying
while they are still wet. Adhering photos would damage the emulsion rendering
the photographs impossible for restoration.
Document Drying and Restoration of Water-Damaged
The following are specific steps to follow when
performing document drying and restoration for water soaked photographs. These
are activities that could be done in do-it-yourself fashion, but it is strongly
advised that the document restoration of valuable photos and vintage
photographs be done by a professional restoration service to avoid further
damage and ensure proper recovery.
* Separate the photos from the water source while
following all precautions and considerations in protecting the emulsion surface
from scratches and damage. If photos are starting to stick to each other or
onto the glass surface of picture frames, try to separate them by letting cold
and clean water to run over them then slowly peeling each photos carefully from
adhered surfaces. This is why it is imperative to start document restoration
and document drying right away to prevent surfaces from adhering to each other
and causing permanent and irreparable damage.
* If the photos are dirty from the floodwaters, they
should be cleaned first before attempting any document drying process. Do this
by subjecting the dirtied photos in clear and clean, cold water. You should
rinse both sides of the item, removing dirt and grime in the process by running
cold water on the surface. Avoid removing dirt or specks by your fingers to
avoid scratches and further damage on the surface, particularly on the emulsion
* Each photo should be carefully laid down with the
emulsion or image side facing up. Place them on top of a paper towel to absorb
excess water from the photos. These paper towels should be replaced every hour
or so until the photographs have completely dried out. Use plain paper towel
that has no prints on the surfaces to prevent transfer to the photos.
Newspapers and other materials with prints are not recommended for drying.
* Do not lay these photos under the sun to dry out
or you'll end up with badly deformed or curled up photographs. Perform document
drying indoors and preferably in an isolated room to prevent disturbance from
wind, pets or people. If possible, introduce a dehumidifier into the room to
quickly remove any excess moisture during the drying process. This will hasten
document drying without causing any deformation and further damage to the
Storing and Protecting Photos
Going through this process of trying to recover and
restore valuable and totally irreplaceable photographs and memories can be a
harrowing and definitely inconvenient experience for a homeowner and his household.
However, this should not always be the case as homeowners can employ practical
preventive measures to avoid such a predicament.
* Take time to scan all your old photos and store
them in DVDs or CDs where you can retrieve them later on. Make duplicates of
these DVDs and safe keep them in different locations. Do the same with new
photos taken using digital cameras and other similar tools.
* Make duplicates of valuable photos with existing
film negatives. Display the copies in picture frames and photo albums while
putting the originals in watertight boxes. Put desiccant inside the boxes to
prevent moisture buildup then store them somewhere dry.
* If there are state or local government warnings on
imminent natural disasters that could make your home and properties susceptible
to water damage, take the precautionary step and start storing your valuable
photos and documents in watertight and sealed boxes. In case of any
eventualities, your valuable memorabilia will be kept in a safe and dry
container and area.
If you value memories of your family and loved ones,
just like the parents of Richie Rich in our earlier story, then you would be
ready to do anything possible to restore water-damaged items and bring them
back to original conditions. However, the action does not stop there as you
also need to do proper preventive measures to avoid any repeats of the disaster
or prevent it from ever happening.