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What to do if you find materials from Lāhainā

Updated: Aug 30, 2023

August 2023 - Materials dispersed from the Lāhainā fire will show up on Lānaʻi shores and tips on handling them until they can be returned to their rightful owners or to the appropriate repository from FEMA:

  • Reduce handling with nitrile or latex gloves when handling objects. The greasy residue in soot can be permanently fixed to absorbent surfaces by skin oils. Soot’s very fine particles stick to everything, and every touch will grind it further into the item. Soot and ash are very abrasive and will further damage items through scratching.

  • Lift objects carefully and avoid weakened areas; for example, support ceramics from the base rather than lifting them with handles. For paper, slide a support piece, e.g., plastic sheet under the item.

  • Avoid placing pressure on blistered or lifting surfaces such as photographs.

  • Place items in supportive boxes or plastic containers.

  • Gentle air drying is best. Dry on a covered lanai or in a garage to reduce exposure to sunlight. Avoid drying indoors to reduce risk of toxic residues ending up in your home. Hair dryers, irons, ovens, and prolonged exposure to sunlight will do irreversible damage.

  • Photos, papers, books, and textiles should be frozen if you can’t get them dry within 48 hours. Wrap items in freezer paper and place them in a frost-free freezer set at the lowest possible temperature.

  • Note the location and date you retrieved the items.

When collecting materials damaged from the Maui wildfires, consider whether there is identifiable information that may be traced back to its original owner, such as a photograph with identifiable faces or places; a letter with legible handwriting, names, or addresses; a document naming a business or an individual; or a ledger or account book with a business or individual's name. It may not be practical to collect material that appears commercially produced, such as a trade publication or daily newspaper, as it may never be claimed.

The National Heritage Responders is a volunteer group of cultural heritage professionals who will response to institutions and individuals impacted by the Lahaina fire. The group offers free advice and resources and is starting to plan webinars for recovery of fire damaged objects and papers in September. 202.661.8068

Unfortunately, the Lānaʻi Culture and Heritage Center cannot accept these items as we lack the resources to care for items outside of our scope of collections. We hope these tips are helpful and will do our best to communicate new information as it becomes available.

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