The following tips are suggestions from conservators, but please realize that every painting and circumstance is different, and that these are general guidelines. A conservator may choose very different treatment options from those presented below upon seeing the painting’s condition. On the whole, conservators have less experience treating art that has been damaged by salt or brackish water as opposed to fresh, and we are still sorting out the differences ourselves.
If time and resources allow, you are always better off consulting with a conservator rather than trying to treat a painting yourself. Of course the volume of damaged work caused by Hurricane Sandy will require prompt, proper, and mindful action by non-professionals in order to minimize damage even in extreme circumstances.
Remember to stay calm and mindful during recovery. Rushing and being anxious will only make things more difficult and lead to mistakes. Recovery is very challenging and the process will be more successful when approached with calm and patience.
Be sure to document everything—absolutely everything. Photos, dictated and written notes, and videos will all be crucial in the aftermath. These are necessary for insurance claims, future allocation of resources, and even documenting the full scope of the disaster.
Also, don’t throw anything away yet. Very rarely is something a total loss. Often we hear of entirely salvageable works having been discarded in the immediate aftermath of a disaster.
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