How to save documents after the flood

Media release: Friday, 10 December 2010

The National Archives of Australia provides online advice on salvaging personal records after a flood. Its website contains practical steps to take when householders are trying to save wet documents.

'If you are unlucky enough to be flooded out, you're likely to have important personal papers such as passports, wills or certificates that may be damaged,' said Ian Batterham, Assistant Director, National Preservation Coordination.

Information on our website shows what to retrieve first and how to dry out material. There is advice on saving paper documents, colour and black and white photographs, CDs, videos, tapes, books and magazines. Tips include methods for removing the dirt and debris that often accompanies flood water.

'When it comes to saving personal memories after the devastation of a flood the key is to act quickly and on good advice. Natural disasters cannot be prevented, but their effect on personal collections can be significantly minimised,' said Mr Batterham.

'Without proper care, wet items will deteriorate quickly and may not be recoverable. The advice on our website is easily accessible and an authoritative source for anyone needing to rescue damaged documents.'

Apart from fire, water is the most destructive element that can affect personal archives. If left wet, paper quickly weakens and water soluble inks will run. Mould often creates irreversible damage as it grows, staining and digesting the paper. Photos and the pages of books or pamphlets that are water damaged can become permanently stuck together.

The online advice is available at:

Ian Batterham is available for interview if required.

Contact information

  • Elizabeth Masters (Media Officer)
    t (02) 6212 3957 m 0427 853 664 e
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