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MoMA Conservators Advise On How To Save Waterlogged Keepsakes

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With so many New Yorkers going through their belongings and wondering what if anything can be saved, art experts at the Museum of Modern Art have some tips on saving precious photos and more. NY1's Arts reporter Stephanie Simon filed the following report.

At the conservation studio at the Museum of Modern Art, experts work day in and day out to preserve museum-quality works of art. In the wake of Sandy, they are also trying to help others.

Whether New Yorkers affected by the storm have valuable art, rare books or just precious photographs, the conservators say the first step is to not panic and throw everything out.

"Even though it's soaked and looking terrible right now, you may be able to get it dry and get it stabilized and over time treatments may be possible," says Jim Coddington, MoMA's chief conservator.

Over the weekend, MoMA held a symposium with the American Institute for Conservation to advise artists and galleries on how to handle wet and damaged works.

Among the most important points is to never enter a compromised space alone and to always document one's belongings.

Next, be careful handling wet objects, especially works on paper and photographs

"You want to be careful about picking it up with your hands. You might want to slip something underneath it and move it to a clean table and let it air-dry naturally," says Karl Buchberg, a senior conservator for MoMA.

Reduce moisture in the air, with a dehumidifier if possible.

Precious books or picture albums can be wrapped and put in the freezer.

"Essentially what you're doing is freezing it in an unexpanded state," says Buchberg.

It's just a stop-gap measure. Eventually, one will need to take the book to a freeze-dry facility.

Another important tip is to not try to press wet paintings, prints or photos to keep them flat.

"As you take the thing off of it, it might take the entire surface with it and then you've done much more damage than you've done good," says Buchberg.

Another no-no is using an iron, as the heat from and iron can damage artwork even more.

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