Preserving Your Memories After Hurricane Harvey



Hey there, Houston.  We hope that you made it to the other side of Harvey with minimal damage and/or clean up.  However, we realize that this is simply not the case for many and we want you to know that HPL is here for you.

We are #houstonstrong, after all.  Already we have opened 19 of our locations throughout the city, so come see us if you need internet access, help with FEMA claims, a good book to escape with or just a smiling face. We're also here with expert advice from our archivists on how to recover and preserve your precious memories and important documents.

First and foremost, you want to take your own personal safety into consideration when assessing any recently flooded environment.  The Library of Congress offers a great guide to getting started, including ways to protect yourself from mold and contaminated water.  

Air drying your documents and photos may be an option if you have enough space to work with in a climate-controlled environment.  Humidity must be kept to a minimum for best results. A few more tips on air drying:

  • Make sure your collection can be set up and dried within 24-48 hours.  Air drying may not be an option for large collections of items.
  • Supplies needed include clean towels, unprinted paper towels, fans.

When trying to save photographs and film negatives:

  • Put items in clean, cold water before setting up to air dry
  • Dry your prints before film negatives
  • If items are stuck to glass or to each other, freeze them first
  • If items are soiled with wet mud, gently rinse in clean, cold water first
  • Separate prints from frames, storage enclosures, or each other and lay them out emulsion side up (do not touch emulsion)
  • Remove film negatives from storage enclosures and clip the edges to drying lines
  • Items will curl upon drying; leave flattening to a conservator.

*Some photographic materials (wet collodion, ambrotypes, tintypes) are very sensitive to water damage and may not be recoverable.

For flat paper, books and documents:

  • Blot any excess water off surfaces
  • Do not attempt to air dry glossy or coated paper; freeze immediately
  • Do not attempt to separate soaking or very wet sheets; leave in 1/4" thick stacks and separate when just damp
  • Lay items flat on clean, absorbent towels or unprinted paper towels; change towels regularly until items are just damp
  • When items are just damp, sandwich between new paper towels and apply light weight overall to flatten

If you have very special items or rare family heirlooms, the Galveston Historical Foundation has a series of great videos for a DIY preservation routine that may help.  For further help, please call us at 832-393-1662 or email us at  


Thank you. Good info. Any info on reopen date for Freed Montrose branch?

You're welcome. We are glad you found it useful. No date yet for Montrose but we hope to open it soon.

Bella Becho Book & Print Bindery does a great job rebinding books. Located at 290 and Dacoma.

Thanks for the tip, David!

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