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March 2017:

When A Museum Needed The Contents Pros

the March cover of contents solutions

When a recent hurricane thundered up the northeast Floridian coast line, immense water damage was left in its wake. One of its victims was America’s first wax museum – Potter’s Wax Museum in St. Augustine.

Fortunately Marie Elaine Harrington loves museums and as luck would have it she is the business development representative for one of the premier textile contents restoration firms in the country – and she was stationed in St. Augustine!

The museum’s manager worked tirelessly with her to select all the fragile fabrics, embroidered costumes, suits and dresses that were in need of immediate repair.

Contents firms like Marie’s are known throughout the U.S. and Canada for quick, thorough restoration of all manner of cloth, fur and leather items – blinds, drapes, sheers, custom cornice boards, shoes, purses, hats, belts, furs, and pillows, as well as medical garments, uniforms, tapestries, vestments, linens and more. But this time an expert would be needed, so she called in a seamstress who was well versed in the restoration of extremely valuable clothing.

Anila Zengo Rushitaj took a great interest and delight in each garment and in every detail including hand cleaning stitching tears, re-attaching ruffles and re positioning beads where needed. These vintage costumes fit historic figures like Mary, Queen of Scots, Queen Elizabeth I, Benjamin Franklin and many others.

Contents companies that focus on only one branch of restoration often produce remarkable results and other contents teams rely on them for their expertise. As an example, companies like these tell us, “Restoration costs an average of only 16% compared to replacement, a savings of 84%.” And some of them offer a unique guarantee, “If an item doesn’t restore, it’s free.”

Most contents teams have strong connections with a dry cleaner or have extensive cleaning facilities within their own buildings. But when they need a specialist, they reach into their “Million Dollar Database” to find consultants and professionals like Marie!

That is why adjusters, agents, property managers, etc., know they can count on the contents pros to get the job done and get it off their desk no matter how challenging it appears.

By the way, Potter’s Wax Museum is open for business!


We have restored over 808 dump truck loads (655 tons/9,701 cubic yards) of soft contents that previously were considered not restorable and otherwise would have ended up in a landfill.” That is what one contents pros’ website proclaims.

Of course they are writing in the collective “we.” There are several companies in their group and it took years to be able to say that they “…restored over 808 dump truck loads.” But the most telling part of that statement is not that they restored so much soft contents, rather it was that the textiles were, “…considered not restorable…” Adjusters would much rather improve the bottom line for their company by restoring not replacing, but when mold and mildew is growing on fabrics, or they smell like leftovers from a campout, odds are good that no homeowner is going to want them back, so it is the adjuster’s natural instinct to discard them. But with modern cleaning and restoration techniques, literally tons of soft contents are being restored to pre-loss condition – including family heirlooms and keepsakes that the owner and his (her) family valued far higher than the replacement cost.

In such situations the contents pros don’t cost – they save!

They Saved

For Insurance Companies

As you may have gathered from our main article about restoring the costumes in the Potter’s Wax Museum, textile restoration professionals deal with all manner of outerwear, sports equipment (including baseball mitts and hockey masks), bed clothes and drapes. Some firms actually restore such widely disparate items as leather jackets, purses shoes and boots, backpacks, tents, luggage, bullet proof vests, scuba gear, life jackets, firefighter’s gear, uniforms, quilts, blankets, drapes, wedding dresses and much more.

In fact it was just such a company that restored the designer purse we mentioned in an earlier issue of Contents Solutions, which had been valued at about $5000, but was left in a frozen twisted lump after a fire and exposure to the elements, then restored to pre-loss condition for only $79.99.

These specialists often amaze adjusters and agents with their masters’ touch. And only a few years ago some of the companies reported that they had joined together in a North American consortium that had saved over $40,000,000 for carriers by restoring items that would otherwise have been discarded.

Insurance agents and adjusters in both countries consider the textile contents pros as numbering among their most valued assets.

Impossible Job? Not For The Contents Pros

A few years ago, a full service restoration company was called for a job in which a small fire had created a major cleanup in a large hunting and sporting goods store. Prior to this, the largest facility that the team had cleaned and restored was about 120,000 sq. ft.

This one was almost twice that!

The store’s own employees had moved quickly when they saw a display on fire and extinguished the blaze themselves – but not before their ventilation system “inhaled” the smoke and ash, then dispersed it throughout the entire 225,000 square foot facility.

A dry chemical compound had been sprayed on the blaze as well. “All that stuff made a fine coating all over the entire store,” local Police Chief David Uhl said.

It was “all hands on deck” as the contents team combined forces with the structural workers and began cleaning the fish tanks, animal displays, trophies, gun displays, walls, windows, doors, ceilings and carpets. All the soft contents was shipped out by the store owner to the suppliers.

The restoration company owner estimated that the scope of a job like this would take 3 to 4 months, but the store owner knew that they were getting around a million visitors a year ad each day the store remained closed, they were losing massive sums of money, So he brought in dozens of his own employees who joined forces with the contents cleaning specialists.

At full capacity, the restoration company manager estimated that there were 200 workers on thee floor at any given hour, getting the place in order.

The contents manager had everything cleaned on site – no packout. Everything was done in three shifts – there was no down time, no wasted minutes, just a whirlwind of cleaning and restoring. In just nine days the store was completely restored and ready to open its doors!

Canadian "Future Tech" May Help The Contents Pros

When an airborne virus like SARS, MERS or even the common flue come in contact with a surgical mask, or “germ mask” that the contents pros use on jobs where they might encounter some contagious pathogens, the mask itself gets contaminated.

But Hyo-Jick Choi, a professor in the University of Alberta Department of Chemical and Materials Engineering, noticed that when he worked with such viruses – that dried out – the viruses died.

He wondered what would happen if he built in a drying agent in the masks, and discovered that such masks, when impregnated with ordinary salt, killed viruses – because the moisture in viruses (like influenza) absorb the salt, dry out and die.

Okay, it isn’t ready for prime time yet, but the day is coming where you may be on a job with a contagion cleanup or sewage back-up, and you can ask a contents pro, “Can I have one of those?”

Chances are, they will share!