Before disaster strikes, have a plan for your art collection


Art can often be restored after a disaster, but it helps to have a plan in place to minimize damage.

As you make emergency plans for your home or business, be sure to include a disaster plan for your fine art and valuable collectibles. While there may be little you can do to prevent some losses, knowing the steps to take immediately after a loss can prevent further damage and buy time for professional conservators to restore your items’ beauty and value.

Nearly any type of art can be easily damaged, but most can be professionally restored to some degree. Value may be impacted up or down depending on condition prior to the loss. Paintings, frames, ceramics and metals usually can be restored so that the damage is no longer visible to the naked eye. Restoration may be more limited for some types of glass, photographs and works on paper, depending on the extent of the damage.

Fire damage is by far the most destructive to works of art and collectibles. Often there is simply nothing left to recover and restore.

While water damage can be devastating and severe, what is left is often restorable if proper recovery takes place very soon after exposure. No two works of art will respond alike to being exposed to excessive heat, moisture, light and stress.


restore-artA number of companies offer general fire and water restoration services. These businesses typically can board up windows and doors, cover roofs, move collections, remove smoke odor, clean and restore electronics, repair structures and control corrosion. While these general providers may perform valuable services for your general household goods, they may not have the expertise to work on fine art. Sometimes simply moving fine art can cause additional damage. Before calling on such services, be sure it is understood what will be done and how.

Before you have a loss, develop relationships with conservators and other art restoration service providers who are experienced with the various media represented in your collection. Create a contact list of resources who can carefully recover, triage and safeguard sensitive and valuable art and antiques in a timely manner.

Trained art conservation resources may exist in your city or region, but depending on your collection, you may need to reach out nationally for a recovery and restoration specialist. Familiarize yourself with available services and operations now, so you won’t need to make a rushed decision during an emergency.

The field of art conservation and restoration has developed significantly in the past 50 years. Advanced technology allows us to see what we once could not, and to identify and treat issues that were once considered impossible. As with any industry, art conservators and restorers are now armed with the tools and materials to perform with nearly miraculous results.

Professional organizations such as The American Institute for Conservation of Historic and Artistic Works (A.I.C.), based in Washington, D.C., exist to establish and promote standards of practice and codes of ethics that member professional conservators are expected to follow. Look for professionals who follow these standards.


There are things you can do to preserve your fine art after a loss and before the professionals step in. Download our disaster planning flyer.

  • A.I.C. offers resource guides to finding a conservator through their website. Their website is superb, and loaded with relevant content and resources for art owners.
  • The National Archives also offers general recovery guidelines and resources for the public.

This blog is part of a series offering advice on preserving, displaying and caring for art objects in your home. Additional information is available at the author’s website. See your local, independent insurance agent for advice on coverage to protect fine art and other items of value.

© Copyright 2017 Doug Eisele; used by permission.

Share This Blog:


Comments are closed.