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WUDPAC alumna helps save collections ravaged by Hurricane Ian

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Two women stand in a library, behind two tables filled with collections care literature and materials.

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​FEMA Reservist Tonya Blades on left, Gwen Manthey, Smithsonian Conservator, on right.​ Courtesy Gwen Manthey, Smithsonian Institution.

​From the WUSF Public Media - WUSF 89.7 feature by Susan Giles Wantuck:

In an emergency like Hurricane Ian, the priority after the storm is always saving lives.

But once that’s done, there are things to be saved.

Gwen Manthey is a fine arts conservator for the Smithsonian Institution. She’s been working on-site at a FEMA Disaster Recovery Center in Lee County, at Lakes Regional Library in Fort Myers, helping people salvage their important objects.

“I just stepped away from a woman who was actually able to recover a part of her parents’ wedding serveware, as well as her baby spoon that washed up on a beach not too far from their home,” Manthey said.​

She said that same woman recovered her husband’s lost wedding ring, which was found in a pile of debris and restored to her through a community Facebook page.

Manthey has lived in disaster-prone places like Illinois and Texas. She said precious heirlooms should be put into watertight containers and kept up high on shelves in Florida, since water is so much a part of the disaster equation here.​

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A pair of gloved hands holds a small fork, above table filled with silverware and collections care materials.

​Gloved hands hold silverware damaged by Hurricane Ian.​ Courtesy Gwen Manthey, Smithsonian Institution.​

“Especially textiles, grandmother's quilts, photo albums, family Bibles, those are the things that can be damaged the most with water,” she said.

But the last place you want to store important belongings is in the attic.

“Roofs are the first things that are damaged when a tree falls down and water penetrates that home. So choosing that right type of container to put these things in, as well as the backing up of those documents, is key,” according to Manthey.​

Manthey said time is of the essence when working to save important objects. And you must prioritize which things are most important to you.​


To read the full article and listen to the radio broadcast, visit the WUSF Public Media website.​​​​​

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WUDPAC class of 2011 alumna and Smithsonian conservator Gewn Manthey is working with survivors to salvage their most important possessions.
11/19/2022
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