The first step is to remain calm while dealing with any damage your collection sustained. We know that's difficult, but you need to work calmly and slowly so as not to cause more damage while sorting through everything. In general, a lot of issues caused by water damage can be fixed. To alleviate some of your fears here is a before and after of a poster that was badly damaged by water and was conserved and fully restored.
|Pictured: This was a linen backed poster that was severely damaged by water.|
|Pictured: It has now been fully restored and looks great.|
After taking a deep breath, make sure that everything is dry. The biggest concern is mold. Most things like water staining and warping can be fixed, but mold is insidious and can cause irreversible damage. We would suggest that you take the time to pull everything out of whatever storage containers they were in, whether it's flat files, shelves or tubes. Any amount of moisture is the enemy of paper. Pull everything out and make sure that all of the surfaces and corners are dry.
If you did incur water damage during the storm you need to let everything dry out completely before putting it back. For the most part, leave pieces to dry in the shape you found them in. Meaning, if they were rolled let them dry rolled, don't try to force them to do anything that might tear or damage the paper.
Let pieces air dry in a place with good air circulation that doesn't get direct sunlight. Don't put any of your items out in the sun because some ink pigments can be easily bleached by sunlight. You can use a fan, as long as it doesn't have heat blowing on the piece. Don't put anything near a heater. Also, don't use a hair dryer, I know that seems silly but I guarantee someone out there is going to try it.
As things dry they will most likely warp, please don't worry too much about this, because a lot of that warping can be fixed by a professional conservator. Do not try to flatten or iron out any warping yourself.
Pieces that were stored in frames may be a little more difficult. If you put them into the frame yourself then you can try carefully removing them. Just remember that depending on the type of ink and whether you used plexiglass or glass is pressed directly against the poster sometimes the ink can stick to the glass and attempting to take the piece out of its frame can in certain circumstances cause additional damage. If they were professionally framed we would advice you talk to your framer before doing anything.
We don't recommend trying to roll or fold anything that has been dried flat because the paper and ink can become brittle and crack.
We also ask that you please not put tape or glue on any of your pieces. If you are planning on having things restored fairly soon, tape and glue only make our job more difficult. If you're going to wait a while before having any of your items restored, not only do tape and glue make our job more difficult but over time they can cause discoloration. So, please put down the tape and stay away from the glue. Tears in the paper should be left alone and if there are pieces that have been ripped off, put them in a plastic snack bag and store them with the poster.
Once your collection is stabilized contact your insurance company and send them photos. Unless you specifically insured your posters and prints, not all insurance companies will cover the damage, but it's worth a shot. Then send the photos to a conservator and when you're ready to ship your items please work with that conservator on the best way to package them.
We apologize for how vague these suggestions are, but each case is different. We will happily answer more specific questions if you want to post them on the blog or please feel free to contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 818.882.1214.