What do I do with the wet photos that I found?

There’s been a disaster in your area. A tornado has blown apart homes and businesses or a flood has swept away people’s precious belongings or water-logged them in corners of their homes. Any of several other types of disasters can result in similar damage and loss.

Can their lost photos be saved? They may be still on their property or they could be miles away scattered by wind or water. What if you find a photo dropped out of the sky or washed up in flood water? Is there any hope of, first, saving the photo, and second, returning it to its owner?

YES! If you come across these items, or if you have your own damaged photos or documents in your home, do not throw them away! They can usually be saved, dried, cleaned and even professionally restored, if needed.

But you need to take action quickly. Here is what we at National Disaster Photo Rescue, along with heritage preservation organizations, recommend for salvaging wet, damaged photos.

rubber glovesStep 1: Keep safety in mind! If you are searching through debris for photos, be sure to wear rubber gloves (like they use in a hospital), possibly under leather work gloves if there is debris, and wear a FEMA-approved mask to prevent breathing in toxic substances such as mold.

Step 2: Have a plan. Its simple to deal with 1 or even a dozen wet photos. But what if you wind up finding hundreds of them? Where will you dry them? What will you do with them?

Step 3: When you are picking up photos, just put them into a trash bag or grocery bag until you can clean them. Don’t leave them in there for long though!

Step 4: If photos are wet AND very muddy, rinse them off in a bucket or sink of clear, plain water, but not under running water. You will need to change the water when it gets too dirty. Do NOT scrub them. Just shake them gently in the water to get the excess mud off. (We will show you what to do with the dry mud in a later step.)

Step 5: Wet photos need to be dried immediately, or frozen until later. If you need to freeze them, stack them loosely, possibly with wax paper in between, and put them in a zip lock bag. Store in the freezer until you can turn them over to someone, like a National Disaster Photo Rescue representative, or until you have time and space to air dry them.

Step 6: The best way to air dry photos is to lay them out flat, photo-side up, not touching any other photos. Be sure you do this on a clean hard surface that won’t be damaged or create more damage to the photos. Spread them out on wax paper, plain paper towels or plain (unprinted) newsprint paper. Do not spread them on printed newsprint or printed paper towels, because the ink can transfer. Leave them to dry for a few days. A fan and/or dehumidifier running in the room to circulate air, but not blowing directly on the photos, will help speed the process. Make sure photos are not in direct sunlight as they dry.

Step 7: Once photos are completely dry, they can be cleaned of any remaining mud or gunk by gently brushing them with used dryer sheets. As you do laundry, save your dryer sheets and when you have a few ready, use them until they look dirty. Laying the photos on a clean, dry dust-catching towel as you clean them will cut down on the dust. Be sure to wear some of those doctor-style plastic gloves and wear a dust mask while you clean the photos. (If there is a National Disaster Photo Rescue operation in your area, we suggest turning them over to our trained volunteers to handle the dirty work.)

Step 8: Clean, dry photos are ready to be put into new photo frames or returned to find their rightful owners. If National Disaster Photo Rescue is running a rescue project in the area, please turn them over to the local representative for return. Otherwise, you can scan them or take a picture of them and post it to Facebook to find the owner.

Step 9: Prevent the devestating loss of your memories in a future disaster. Scan and safely archive your photos today! Find someone with a high-speed scanner that can turn an otherwise month-long task into a task that takes a couple of hours. Or watch for a Save Your Photos Day in your area!

Do you want to volunteer with NDPR and help salvage and return photos lost in a disaster? You’ll find the volunteer application here.

For more information on salvaging other precious documents from rain or flood water, we have found these resources for you:

Van Texas Photo Training Scheduled

Van Texas NDPR photo rescue projectWe are thrilled to announce that we will be in Van, Texas August 3 thru August 5 to train individuals interested in preserving and returning photos displaced by the recent tornado.

Several of our directors will be arriving in the early evening on the 3rd and hope to tour the area and will meet in person with our on-site director Nancy Stelmach. On August 4th we will host a training workshop for all volunteers interested in learning more about our program and how to help in Van. We will assist in setting up Van photo rescue procedures and get the ball rolling on cleaning, scanning, and returning the salvaged photos from the May tornado.

Volunteers wanting to participate in the August 4 National Disaster Photo Rescue training should register online by July 17 (click here for the registration form) or contact the on-site director Nancy Stelmach at 713-725-4470 for more information. The workshop will be located at the Van Chamber of Commerce and there is no fee.

Click here to download a PDF file of additional information and needed supplies.

The National Disaster Photo Rescue organization (501c3) formed after the May 22, 2011 Joplin, Missouri tornado and is a ministry of First Baptist Church, Carthage Missouri. National Disaster Photo Rescue is dedicated to the preservation and return of lost photos after a disaster, thus building renewed strength and hope by reuniting communities with treasured memories thought to have been destroyed.

For questions about NDPR, please contact us here.

Carthage Save Your Photos Day preserves nearly 1000 family photographs for area residents

National Disaster Photo Rescue succeeded in protecting and preserving over 930 invaluable family photographs for residents of their hometown during the Carthage Save Your Photos Day on Saturday, April 25th.

Volunteers with NDPR carefully scanned treasured photographs using state of the art equipment donated by Kodak Alaris and EZ Photo Scan and secured the digital images onto DVD discs in efforts to safeguard memories in the event of disaster. The service and supplies were offered at no cost to participants.

Carthage Save Your Photos Day volunteer and board member Carol prepares images for scanningCarol is registering a Carthage resident for digital photo preservation.

Posted by National Disaster Photo Rescue on Saturday, April 25, 2015

On September 27th of last year, National Disaster Photo Rescue along with Save Your Photos Alliance joined the list of 64 events in 4 countries saving 24,000+ photos for Joplin residents at their first Save Your Photos Day event.

Also attending Carthage Save Your Photos Day, French Journalist Anne Pineau and photographer interviewed volunteers as well as Joplin tornado survivors who were reunited with their personal photos through NDPR as a part of the Lost Photos of Joplin project. Stories from Pineau’s tour through Middle America will be found in the publication Terra Eco.

A French journalist and photographer are visiting NDPR today and speaking with some disaster survivors and those interested in preserving photos at Save Your Photos Day.

Posted by National Disaster Photo Rescue on Saturday, April 25, 2015

Joplin residents will have another opportunity to claim photos and view those which remain unclaimed at the upcoming reunification event on May 16th from 10am to 2pm at the Joplin Museum Complex. Images can still be viewed on the Lost Photos of Joplin Facebook page.

In addition to over 17,000 photos, we also have collected a number of yearbooks and other artifacts. I’ll name some…

Posted by Lost Photos of Joplin, MO Tornado on Thursday, April 9, 2015

For more information call 417-358-8161.

"Save Your Photos Day" Offers Free Scanning and Preservation Tips to Help ... - EIN News (press release)

“Save Your Photos Day” Offers Free Scanning and Preservation Tips to Help
EIN News (press release)
“Save Your Photos Day is a global event, with dates ranging from late September through early October,” said Thad Beeler, Ministry Outreach Director for the National Disaster …read more      

Joplin area events for September 2014 - Joplin Independent

Joplin area events for September 2014
Joplin Independent
27: National Disaster Photo Rescue, a ministry of the First Baptist Church of Carthage, with Save Your Photos Alliance will host an opportunity to scan important photos and preserve them for safe-keeping at no cost. The …read more      

Save Your Photos Day - Four States Homepage

Four States Homepage
The National Disaster Photo Rescue has partnered with the Save Your Photos Alliance for a day to help you scan and save your photos. Save Your Photos Day will be held September 27th from 9 a.m. until 4 p.m. It will be …read more    

“Returning Lost Memories Worth a Thousand Words”…

A vintage photo returned to the family that lost it in the 2011 Joplin tornadoMemories are “the ability of the mind to store and recall past sensations, thoughts, knowledge”-Collins Dictionary.

How can you put a value on such a personal emotion? National Disaster Photo Rescue (NDPR) believes the value is priceless. For the past three years, National Disaster Photo Rescue has been reconnecting the memories of life directly back to those affected in natural disasters. We have walked the journey with hundreds of families. Our volunteers and volunteer staff have been reconnecting lost family photographs with the families who have the memories, free of charge. These photographs, lost during natural disaster, are important documents of life.

It is amazing the stories we hear of how one reunited photograph brought joy and healing in a time of need.

Photographs are the connection to our past. They transcend a single sense. Photographs truly transport us into that moment. We feel the emotions, hear the sounds, smell the food. We re-experience life. NDPR experiences these senses and emotions along side families. Family ‘Reunification’ is what NDPR does and does well. Reunification would have never been possible without help.

NDPR could not claim success without so many to walk with us as we walked with families in need. Operation Photo Rescue (OPR) is a group that we are so grateful for. Take some time, especially if you are into photo restoration, to visit their website OperationPhotoRescue.org.

There are countless churches, municipalities, businesses and business leaders who have helped us and given us the opportunity to help others. Recently, we have found great friends within the Association of Professional Photo Organizers (APPO). As we build one success upon another we continue to build relationships in communities and organizations.

Currently we are engaged in ‘Lost Photo Projects’ in Baxter Springs , KS, also Quapaw, OK, as well as Mayflower/Vilonia, AR . There are no shortage of natural disasters, so we can always use help. If you would like to help us in your area in the event of a disaster please register on our website at NationalDisasterPhotoRescue.org. Monetary gifts are tax deductible.

We would love to hear from you. Please post a comment to spread the Good News that there is hope and there is hope through our God. Our continuing mission at National Disaster Photo Rescue is “returning lost memories worth a thousand words”.

Thad Beeler- NDPR Outreach Director
May 22, 2014

Lost Photos of Joplin Photo Reunification Event – May 17

Lost photo of JoplinNational Disaster Photo Rescue and The Joplin Museum Complex are holding a public viewing and photo reunification event  for the ‘Lost Photos of Joplin’ project.  This official event will be at the Joplin Museum Complex, May 17, 2014, 10am – 1pm, in the Museum Complex located at 504 S. Schifferdecker.

The ‘Lost Photos of Joplin’ photos will be available for public viewing at the event. Those wishing to make claims on photographs and documents can do so during the event hours of 10am-1pm at the Joplin Museum Complex.

The photos on display were found both locally and at great distances following the May 22, 2011 Joplin tornado and handed over to the Lost Photos of Joplin project. Photos were cleaned, marked, scanned and stored in hopes of reuniting storm survivors and their loved ones with their lost memories.

Family Reunification will occur at this event. Families wishing to claim personal memories, can come to view all photos remaining at this event. Families wishing to identify memories before the event may do so at our website Joplin.NationalDisasterPhotoRescue.org or on Facebook at: Facebook.com/LostPhotosofJoplin.

Joplin Museum Complex staff will be assisted by NDPR reunification staff for the event.

The Physical Photos and Documents will remain at the museum after the event. N.D.P.R. will continue to assist the Joplin Museum in cyber-maintenance and reunification. Future claims will continue to be made on the Joplin Lost Photos website and our Facebook page.



The National Disaster Photo Rescue formed because of the May 22, 2011  Joplin, Missouri tornado and is a ministry of the First Baptist Church of Carthage, Missouri. The ‘Lost Photos of Joplin’ project has shown the need for families to reunite with Lost Memories. The National Disaster Photo Rescue will be there, in the future, to help other communities learn through our community how to “Return lost Memories worth a Thousand Words”.

Photo Collection Rally in Baxter Springs and Quapaw this Friday

gloves for collecting lost photosA Photo Collection Rally in the communities of  Baxter Springs, Kansas and Quapaw, Oklahoma is organized for this Friday at 1 pm to rapidly college lost photographs and documents due to Sunday’s tornado. We need 50 to 100 volunteers to collect the lost photos before they are further damaged or destroyed.

The Photo Collection Rally will be held from 1:00 to 4:30. All Volunteers are to meet at the Volunteer sign-in station located at Burgraff Tire- 2402 Military Ave -Baxter Springs, Kansas. Volunteers will be directed to Collection areas both in Baxter Springs and in Quapaw, Oklahoma. Volunteers going to Quapaw will require additional sign-in.

All Volunteers wanting to help The National Disaster Photo Rescue in the Photo Collection Rally must be signed in as a Volunteer before 1:00pm.

Volunteers will be given instructions during an orientation meeting at 1:00pm. Collection Drop off locations, Community areas for collection, as well as Best Practices will be discussed. Those working with N.D.P.R. must attend the orientation meeting.

Volunteers planning to attend the N.D.P.R. Photo Collection Rally should consider personal safety the top priority. Heavy shoes or Boots and long pants are recommended and highly encouraged. Leather gloves will be needed as well as dust masks. Gloves and masks are available at the Community Volunteer sign-in location, but are not guaranteed.

Volunteers, working in teams, are highly encouraged as a Health and Safety safeguard.

Community volunteers are encouraged to contact N.D.P.R. through the following facebook links

Lost Photos of Baxter Springs, KS

Lost Photos of Quapaw, OK 

Time is critical in the Collection Phase. Photos and Documents need to be collected and preserved from further damage. For more information on drying photos and documents can be found here.

The National Disaster Photo Rescue organization (501c3)  formed because of the May 22, 2011  Joplin, Missouri tornado and is a ministry of the First Baptist Church of Carthage, Missouri.  The National Disaster Photo Rescue will be there, in the future, to help other communities learn through our community how to “Return lost Memories worth a Thousand Words”.  Financial contributions can be made directly to N.D.P.R.

National Disaster Photo Rescue Begins Efforts in Baxter Springs - Four States Homepage

Four States Homepage
The National Disaster Photo Rescue is helping people of Baxter Springs, Quapaw, and also Mayflower and Vilonia, Arkansas. They say no matter where they go post-disaster, photos are so important to families who’s lives are impacted. The National

…read more