Smithsonian stops by Durham to show how to treat damaged keepsakes after flood

Smithsonian stops by Durham to show how to treat damaged keepsakes after flood
Posted at 11:04 PM, Mar 30, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-31 00:06:19-04

OMAHA, Neb. (KMTV) — Cori Wegener is the Smithsonian's director of the cultural rescue initiative. She's live in Washington now, but is a Fremont native and University of Nebraska-Omaha graduate. She's showing Nebraskans and Iowans how to preserve family photos, letters, and other items after being washed by floodwater.

"[Flood victims] may prematurely give up and throw away important family treasures when there are really simple steps you can take to try to save them," Wegener said.

There's a lot you can save by getting creative. Using porch screen to pick up pictures or paper, you can sift them in distilled water to clean off contamination and mud. Wegener recommends drying items by what she calls "sandwiching" towels. Paper towels can soak water out of waterlogged books. Using a paint roller is better than blow dryers or fans, which can dry items too fast and damage them.

"It's a good thing to have dehumidifier in the room to help humidity down a prevent rapid mold growth," Wegener said. "Mold is really your enemy in all this."

For items like quilts or wedding dresses, pick them up with pipe insulators or PVC pipes to prevent fibers from tearing.

"If you don't have the time and the patience to do things all at once, you can freeze things," Wegener said. "That buys you time. It won't fix your problem, but it will prevent mold growth."

Saving personal heirlooms will take time.

"Eventually that object--think of a photo--it will come out cleaner and you can hang it on a plastic clothes and pin on a line and it'll be dry before you know it," Wegener said.