Our Laguna: Talk focuses on protection, preservation

August 18, 2011|By Barbara Diamond
  • Scott Haskins is the speaker at the Festival of Arts' Art Talk on Aug. 11. He discussed how to protect your property from natural disasters.
Scott Haskins is the speaker at the Festival of Arts'… (Coastline Pilot )

The December deluge destroyed or damaged art and valuable documents in homes and studios in Laguna.

In 1993, fire was the culprit.

In 2005, a landslide.

At least some, if not all, of the destruction could have been avoided, according to Scott Haskins.

Haskins, a fine arts conservator and author, talked last week at the Festival of Arts about what folks can do to protect their treasures from natural or man-made disasters and what to do if it happens. His expertise was the springboard for his book, "How to Save Your Stuff From a Disaster," which can be purchased at

"After the Northridge earthquake, I got a request to write a pamphlet on how to take care of stuff," Haskins said. "Forty-two million were distributed. Someone said, 'Where's the book?' I said I am a conservator, not a writer. And that is how the book got written."

As a conservator, Haskins has been a consultant for organizations that include the General Services Administration of the U.S. government, the Shroud of Turin project, the historical department of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the Getty Conservation Institute. His firm routinely collaborates with insurance companies in responding to accidents.


But even average folks have "stuff" that is valuable, if not intrinsically then sentimentally: the family Bible, the children's handprint made in kindergarten, photographs — the loss of any of which would be painful.

More affluent folks might also suffer financial loss if the value of their art and collectibles is not properly documented.

"Insurance companies want evidence of the value," Haskins said, "They won't take your word that something you bought for 50 cents at a garage sale is worth $5,000. The companies get taken for hundreds of millions of dollars every year, and they want proof."

And too many claims can raise a red flag with insurance companies.

"If you make a claim, the companies frown on subsequent claims," said Pat Sparkuhl, a longtime Festival of Arts exhibitor.


An ounce of prevention

Haskins also touched on what folks need to know to prevent papers, photos, letters, journals, figurines, paintings, heirlooms and collectibles from falling apart, being eaten by rats or silverfish, mishaps at home, earthquakes and floods.

Then there's this bit of advice: Keep your hands to yourself, Haskins warned.

"When something is damaged, the first inclination is to do something," Haskins said.

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