List of Useful Salvage Supplies

By MJ Davis, Paper Conservator in Private Practice and Lead Trainer, American Institute of Conservation Emergency Response Team
Many types of salvage supplies can be purchased locally and don’t cost too much.  It would be helpful to keep a small cache of salvage materials in a clean, large garbage can in your house or at your neighbor’s just in case something does happen in your studio.  That way you’ll have supplies on hand you should need them.  This saves time and frustration in the event that your studio is involved in a major disaster where disaster supplies can be scarce.

Hardware store

  • Fiberglass window screening

    • Make drying screens using canvas stretchers or wooden strips

    • As support material to carry wet, heavy artworks

  • Plastic Egg Crate (used in fluorescent lights)

    • Great for air drying, put a layer of window screening over top or layer of garden filter fabric to prevent artwork from having “squares” on it after drying
    • As support material to carry wet artworks
  • Nylon string and plastic clothes pins

    • Set up a line to hang photos and slides (by the corners), CD and durable papers, prints, etc.
  • Small tools, such as hammer, pliers, nail pullers, scissors, screw drivers, staple gun

  • Kiddie pool(s) for rinsing or holding clean wet items

  • Plastic bins for sorting and/or rinsing as well as holding and transporting

  • Sponges for blotting, all sizes

  • Absorbent toweling (Can be rinsed, dried and reused)

  • Gardening filter fabric (100% spun polyester) used for carrying wet artifacts, for stuffing out wet textiles and isolation layer from egg crate drying racks or table tops

  • Duct tape, packing tape, strapping tape

  • Contractor trash bags and large plastic garbage cans

  • Sheet of Plexiglas - works to carry large wet paper or textile

    • smaller sheets work well as rinsing support for wet paper and fragile objects
  • Plastic sheeting or house wrap (Tyvex)

    • plastic sheeting may be used to isolate dry from wet

    • it can be placed over wet paintings and furniture to prevent them from drying out too quickly, monitor for mold growth

  • Protective gear (also referred to as “PPE” or Personal Protective Equipment) - Tyvex suits, N95 masks, plastic gloves, rubber boots, splash goggles

  • Mops and brooms

  • Headlamps or flashlights and batteries

Fabric store

  • 100% polyester batting for stuffing out textiles or putting under painting for support as it dries face up.      

  • Cotton tying tape for securing loose elements

  • Sweater drying frames for air drying.  Some of them stack which takes up less space.

  • Cotton toweling (can be washed and reused)

  • Grocery store

  • Styrofoam meat trays (all sizes) to sort small objects or to secure broken item

  • Wax paper, parchment paper or freezer paper for isolating bleeding dyes, book covers, artworks or photos before they are frozen.

  • Paper towels for absorbing water

  • Small plastic cups to hold screws, labels, etc.  Can be marked with Sharpie marker

  • Ziploc bags, all sizes to keep CD’s, audio tapes, VCR tapes wet if already soaked

  • Trash bags

Office supply store

  • Bubble wrap for supporting and stuffing

  • Unprinted newsprint or large roll of plain white paper to cover salvage tables and work surfaces.

  • Paper tags for ID

  • Sharpie markers for writing on packaging

  • Milk crates for packing out items to be frozen

  • Clipboard and yellow pads

  • Mechanical pencils

  • Masking tape and strapping tape for closing boxes hanging up signs

Second Hand store or from home

  • Old towels, sheets and bed pads for absorbing water and padding out work tables.  Washable and reusable.

Vendors for Archival Supplies

TALAS  1-212-219-0770

Gaylord 1-800-448-6160

University Products  1-800-628-1912

Print-friendly list