ancestryink fisherman

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Maritime Monday - Photograph Rescue After High Tide (And High Humidity)

Here we are again at Maritime Tuesday!  This time let's blame the day-lateness on the Fourth of July throwing everything off.

My house feels like a boat.  The high humidity level lately reminds me of a year I lived on an old wooden sloop.  I thought nothing could feel as damp as that, but this summer in Falmouth is becoming a close second.  I have thought about years lived at sea in the 1800's for both mariners, and their families that at times traveled with them.  Being damp was a way of life.  It's amazing the ship's logs and journals were preserved for us to read today.  As I sit here watching the pages of my books curl in the humidity in my own living room, my heart goes out to those ancient mariners.

I was further prompted to investigate treatment of moisture-ridden objects, by my local Falmouth Library.  They have recently sent out their microfilm of old newspapers, ships logs, and other manuscripts, for digitization. Besides the conservation effort, digitization will also relieve the library visitor (like myself) from sitting at a very noisy microfilm machine under too-bright lighting (necessary, in a library) straining to read penmanship from the early 1800's.  Yay!

Whaling Log Penmanship &Whales

Back to the topic of moisture. In times of floods like those hitting the west and south lately, and high humidity - there is great concern about books, documents and photographs.


AIC - Conservation of Valuable Objects

The AIC or American Institute for Conservation is a vast and multi-faceted organization dedicated to preserving and restoring artworks of all kinds, manuscripts, books, pretty much anything of deep historical or personal significance.  They are as they say on their website:  "The SWAT team for art."

AIC Emergency Response Team


On the Resources page of their website, they also offer a great tip to the common man, for saving photographs after a flood.  Maybe not an every day occurrence in your life, but good to know in case your valuable photos either fall off a boat or otherwise meet a watery demise.

Quoted from the AIC site:


"Photographs and photo albums are often the only records of momentous occasions like weddings, birthdays, and graduations," Sarah Wagner, senior photograph conservator at the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) said. "If the flood has damaged them, saving them may be possible. Remember that if flood waters did not damage the negatives, you can make new prints anytime."

Damaged photographs for which there are no negatives should receive attention first. Once photographs have stuck together or become moldy, saving them may not be possible. Handle wet photos carefully; the surfaces may be fragile. Wet photos may be rinsed in clean water (if needed) and sealed in a plastic garbage bag with a tie or a ziploc type plastic bag. If possible, put wax paper between each photograph. If a freezer is available, freeze the photos immediately. Later, the photos may be defrosted, separated, and air-dried.

If no freezer or refrigerator is available, rinse wet photos in clean water and dry them, face up, in a single layer on a clean surface (a table, window screen, or clean plastic laid out on the ground. Avoid drying the photos in direct sunlight. Don' t worry if the photos curl as they dry. A photo expert can be contacted later about flattening them.


The tip about separating the photos with wax paper and freezing is a brilliant idea.  Obviously, if you have experienced a massive flood, there may be no power to run your fridge.  Maybe you can find someone with a generator to help out.  In any case, even if it is just your basement that has flooded or fallen to damaging humidity, this is a quick and easy thing to do until you are able to bring the photos to a better environment.

 Stay cool and dry, all ye mariners and non-mariners alike!





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