Sean Roach, TCC's Associate Art Handler, recounts his expedition to South Dakota to rescue four paintings from impending flood waters.
This past month, Hurricane Sandy devastated the Eastern seaboard leaving homes and businesses severely damaged, and basements, storage spaces, and first floors flooded by water. In some areas, the water line reached nearly five feet. The Conservation Center was called onsite to New York City on October 29th, where we assisted both businesses and home owners with damaged art, heirlooms, and unique items affected by the flood waters. The Center's onsite crews worked to carefully remove and triage over two thousand works of art in order to mitigate additional damage.
The Farnsworth House located in Plano, Illinois experienced a devastating flood in 2008. The Conservation Center was contacted and our team was sent to safely remove the wardrobe during restoration of the house. It remained secure in our fine art storage facility until conservation treatment was approved.
Whether a corporation’s art collection is a curated investment, a donation from an art-loving CEO, an act of community connection, or a trove of archival material, keeping it in good condition requires the knowledge of experts. The Conservation Center has a long history of caring for corporate art holdings in four categories: disaster response, re-housing, storage, and display.
Responding to disaster and emergency situations is one of the most challenging services The Center offers. It is also the most critical. Organization, timely response, and the right resources are crucial to a successful outcome. Taking control of a disaster starts long before it happens. The Center serves as a resource for insurance companies, institutions, museums, and private clients nationwide. Along with our conservators, we have a trained team with experience in responding to a variety of emergency situations, on call 24 hours a day.
Each time The Chicago Conservation Center is involved in a disaster relief situation, be it small or large, we are presented with new challenges in art handling and conservation. The Veterans Memorial Museum in Cedar Rapids, Iowa proved to be one of those situations in which ingenuity and quick-thinking was required to save their collection from the recent flooding of the Cedar River. In less than two days, and with crucial help of local volunteers lead by Michael Jager of Cedar Rapids, The Center’s Disaster Response Team was able to inventory and pack the entire collection of 425 military artifacts housed in the now toxic environment.
As a consequence of the massive flooding of the Cedar and Iowa rivers that occurred in Iowa last June, The National Czech and Slovak Museum and Library in Cedar Rapids was surrounded by 15 feet of water, well above any historical level. As soon as the water started to recede and the building was safe to enter, The Conservation Center sent a five person disaster response team to assess and recover the textile collection that was located on the first floor of the museum and thus totally immersed during the flood. This portion of the textile collection encompassed approximately 1,000 traditional Czech and Slovak costumes and garments, many with detailed colored embroidery, glass beading and metallic thread decorations.
The Southern California wildfires in the Fall of 2007 were some of the most devastating in terms of loss of homes and personal property. While Katrina taught us lessons in dealing with damage from water, humidity and mold- the fire, heat and smoke damage from the wildfires provide an alternative set of risk management lessons. In our work with fine art and furniture restoration, The Chicago Conservation Center has responded to many crises such as the LaSalle Bank fire, Hurricane Katrina, and now the Southern California wildfires.