Recovery of Wet Photographs, Water-Damaged Film, and Other Prints
The following applies to the recovery of 20th century black-and-white photographic and contemporary color materials. These photographic materials require immediate attention. Careful air drying must commence within 48 hours after becoming wet to achieve the best results (1,2).
Note: Images made by earlier 19th century processes, e.g. Ambrotypes, Tintypes, Daguerreotypes, collodion, silver gelatin glass plate negatives, plus earlier color processes, e.g. Autochromes, Dufay color, Paget, Finley, and Agfa color that are water-damaged, all require different procedures to prevent deterioration and permanent damage. These should be referred directly to a qualified Photographic Conservator for advice and treatment (see below).
Early Response Tips to Save Wet Photographs
Attention to the response steps given below will help Document Reprocessors successfully recover your photographic materials with minimal changes in their appearance.
- Keep all damaged materials cold and wet. Never let them dry out.
- Rinse off heavy mud or particulate dirt deposits with clean, cold water.
- Place wet items and their ID in a plastic bag, seal tightly and keep cold.
- Put the bag in a sturdy box, label the box with your name and contents, and ship overnight express to our New York recovery facilities.
- Call our office to advise us on quantity, shipping and arrival time so we can be prepared for your shipment.
- If you cannot ship the same day that the images become wet, follow the above steps and place the bagged images in a freezer. Then, ship the frozen materials to us when you are ready.
Learn More About Salvaging Water-Soaked Photos
For additional information about restoring wet photographs and prints, refer to:
- 1 Klaus B. Hendricks, "Fundamentals of Photograph Conservation: A Study Guide," 1991.
- 2 Debbie Hess Norris, "Air-Drying of Water-Soaked Photographic Materials: Observations and Recommendations," ICOM-CC 1996.
In addition, please take a tour of our operations through our comprehensive slideshow, or view the Document Reprocessors informational video and learn more about how we can help you save your wet photographs and prints when disaster strikes.