This blog was originally posted on 16 March 2022.

Town in flood, possibly Bairnsdale. Hodgkinson, Walter photographer, ca. 1880-ca. 1900; H42506/368

Our thoughts are with the many individuals and communities who are currently affected by the devastating floods in Victoria, and those for whom swollen rivers upstream are an imminent threat.

With around 34,000 homes forecast to be inundated or isolated by floodwaters in Victoria, the impact on life, the environment, businesses, and livelihoods cannot be overstated.

Widespread flooding has caused considerable damage to personal possessions and cultural heritage collections.

State Library Victoria has mitigation strategies in place to reduce risks to the State Collection, along with procedures for the recovery of water-damaged collection material.

This takes a lot of planning and training over many years. However, not everyone has the experience or resources to establish their own processes.

Thankfully, there are invaluable online resources available to both individuals and small organisations entrusted with the care of their community’s collections that offer guidance on preparing for imminent disasters and methods for salvaging water-damaged items.

Staff cleaning up in the basement, they commenced well before the flood waters had fully subsided, Coles Hobart Store No. 30.
Coles Myer Ltd., ca. 1945- ca. 1960; YMS 13468, MS BOX 4546/9
Barefoot staff using brooms to push the flood waters of out Coles Bourke Street Melbourne Store No. 200. Coles Myer Ltd., ca. 1960- ca. 1975; YMS 13468, MS BOX 4546/9

As evocative as these historical images are, remember that water and electricity never go together – always wear shoes and always check that electricity has been disconnected before attempting any salvage. Your safety is paramount!

Useful resources

The Australian Institute for the Conservation of Cultural Material (AICCM) has compiled a comprehensive list of resources covering:

  • preparing for imminent disasters
  • what to do if flood water is in your building
  • recovering water-damaged objects
  • getting help from a conservator near you

More details here:

The Blue Shield Australia website includes resources to support salvage and recovery of flood damaged collections:

The conservation guides produced by the Library’s Collection Care team include a downloadable PDF on dealing with mould-affected items.

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