ART Restoration – Saving Memories for Generations to Come

During one dark, cold, Michigan winter night in February, a pipe burst at the Royal Oak Historical Society sending a heavy flow of hot water onto a wooden cabinet that showcased items from the Abraham Lincoln/George A. Dondero collection, a unique exhibit showing the connection between Dondero, Royal Oak’s first mayor and the Abe Lincoln family. This cabinet contained priceless original documents, photographs and family mementos. To make matters worse, steam from the pipe spread throughout the museum and created condensation on many other items that were on display including original, historic paintings. The museum’s curator, Muriel Versagi initially thought these items were completely ruined. Thankfully the adjuster on the claim did not “complete loss” these items and the majority of the damaged documents and historical paintings were returned to pre-loss condition and “look even better than they did on display” she said.

Water Damage to Artwork

When works of art are damaged by water, typical implications are stains, discoloration, wrinkles, bleeding ink, fusion to glass and mold growth. Mold is obviously the largest concern as it not only can cause deep staining but can also be a serious health hazard. Often times artwork affected by water and mold damage are thought to be a total loss, but the right professionals can restore artwork to it’s pre-loss condition and greatly minimize bacteria and bacterial growth that leads to mold.

Fire Damage to Artwork

In addition to recovering art from water damage, works of art can also be salvaged after fire. fire is arguably the most destructive natural disaster often consuming and destroying everything in it’s path. Even when items are not completely destroyed smoke and heat damage can be major issues.
Also, when works of art are damaged by fire, often the smoke will stain and discolor the item, leaving a fine layer of soot and ash. Soot can be very acidic and particularly challenging to clean on delicate surfaces such as aged canvas and porcelain. However, with the use of the right chemicals, artwork can be salvaged after fire including the removal of residual smoke odor.

Saving Memories

Art Restoration is a skilled trade that requires special training and education. For example, restoring a 19th century painting requires an in-depth knowledge of art history, paints and canvas. Professional restorers perform a variety of tasks to improve artwork’s condition and appearance and can also offer preservation services to help maintain collections.

Proficient restorers have skills and techniques to handle an array of challenges from carefully cleaning dirt and varnish from a painting; repairing a torn canvas; removing water stains from photographs; replacing missing parts of a broken sculpture; and cleaning soot and mold. In addition to disaster recovery, art restorers can clean and re-gild ornate frames, and even clean and repair soft sculpture such as taxidermy.  

In addition to public art and historical collections like the one mentioned above, many homeowners have art, collectibles, antiques and even family heirlooms that have been passed down through generations. These items are invaluable to the family and often cannot be replaced. Next time disaster strikes, ask about your artwork and family heirlooms. Whether it’s a full collection or grandpa’s deer mount, saving these items from the trash will also allow them to be enjoyed for many more generations to come.

Art Recovery Technologies (ART) is a national art restoration service with locations across the country that help restore works of art damaged by fire, flood and vandalism. Learn more at