Maggie Wessling: Disaster Recovery Project
The Better Image® is a private photograph conservation laboratory based in Milford, NJ, with a second location on 34th Street in Manhattan. Co-founder Peter Mustardo has been coordinating and overseeing efforts to recover and stabilize photographs damaged recently in the flooding from Hurricane Sandy. Assistant photograph conservator at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Katie Sanderson, and current graduate student in photograph conservation, Maggie Wessling, assisted Peter Mustardo in salvaging a collection of family photographs that were retrieved from a damaged home on the New Jersey coast. The collection arrived at the studio in Milford in individual plastic sleeves within a ring-binder and still wet with salt water from the flooding. Salvage consisted of cutting away the plastic sleeves, rinsing the photographs in successive baths of clean, cold water and finally placing the photographs on blotters to absorb the excess water and allow them to air dry. The gelatin emulsion is extremely sensitive during this process and it is important that nothing dries in contact with the surface. Once dried, the photographs were loosely stacked, counted and packed in boxes to return to the owner. Further treatment may follow to flatten the photographs, depending on the owner's desires.