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Katherine Smith
Media Promotions Officer
smitk@unimelb.edu.au
Tel: +61 3 8344 3845
Mob: 0402 460 147

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A free booklet explaining how people can care for valued possessions such as artworks and photos after bushfire damage has been developed by the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation (CCMC).

A free booklet explaining how people can care for valued possessions such as artworks and photos after bushfire damage has been developed by the University of Melbourne’s Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation (CCMC).

Director of the CCMC, Associate Professor Robyn Sloggett, says that as fires are brought under control, it is natural for those whose homes were spared in the fires to start thinking about the future.

“In the immediate aftermath of the fires of course people were mainly concerned for the safety of their families and friends, and those in their communities who had lost loved ones or homes,” she says.

“However for those who are now moving into the clean-up phase, there are resources available that may make the task a little easier.”

The booklet “Bushfires…Protect Your Precious Possessions” was prepared by Marcelle Scott at the CCMC in 2003 in association with Emergency Management Australia, and outlines procedures for preservation of family treasures and other valuables ahead of the fire season, as well as simple steps for cleaning up after fire damage.

“When it comes to clean up, it’s important for people to realise that residual smoke and soot, as well as mould spores that have formed on wet items, can be toxic. Protective footwear, disposable gloves and face masks available from hardware stores should be worn when cleaning or sorting items.”

A/Professor Sloggett says that in the initial retrieval stage, items should simply be stored on trays or in plastic bags. “Badly burnt items probably won’t be salvagable but soot and smoke damaged items stand a good chance of being saved through simple cleaning processes.”

“Valuable artwork or historic items will probably need the help of professional conservators but other items can be gently cleaned with dry brushes and vacuum cleaners on and low held away from the object. Smoke sponges will absorb any greasy smoke, and can be obtained from specialist cleaning suppliers.

“A handy rule to keep in mind until advice can be sought is: if it’s dry, keep it dry; if it’s damp, keep it damp; and if it’s wet, keep it wet.

“Soiled and damaged photos can be immersed in water and gently agitated, then air dried on paper towels, while wet books can be stood on end and allowed to dry with the pages open.”

The free booklet can be downloaded from:
www.culturalconservation.unimelb.edu.au/publications/bushfires.html

Staff at the Centre for Cultural Materials Conservation are also happy to assist with enquiries from the public and can be contacted on 9348 5700.

For interview: Associate Professor Robyn Sloggett (8344 7989)
Media Unit contact: Katherine Smith (8344 3845 / 0402 460 147)