Documenting Before & After

One of the most important things you can do now, before the next emergency or disaster happens, is to make sure you have good documentation for the materials in your workplace or studio. This can help you establish what you have in your building or collection, and in what condition, both before and after a disaster.

It’s never too late to start an inventory. This practice can be easy to start, maintain and store. Use your smartphone video and narrate your inventory. Take photos of all of your supplies, equipment, artwork and other assets. Take video or photographs of the make and model these items when applicable. This will be critical in filing claims with your insurance carrier to replace them.

In addition to having a written inventory document, it can be a real advantage for you to do photo-documentation of your building, collections, and holdings (such as props, music scores, and costumes) now, before disaster strikes.

If you have an emergency that destroys portions of your materials or building, photo or video documentation from before the event can be compared with documentation from after the event to help you determine what changes have been caused by the event. Also, if you need to do renovation or reconstruction of your building, photo documentation can provide you with an exact layout from before the disaster.

Could your art career survive if you lost access to your files? Do you have records that are irreplaceable and critical to the operation of your artistic practice or business?

Documentation of your artwork, artistic practice, and business records is critical for marketing your work, contacting galleries, museums and collectors, submitting insurance claims, and securing your legacy as an artist.

In the event of a disaster, what records would you need to assure continuity of your art career or business if you had to suddenly start somewhere new? This can include your CV or resume, photos of work, process formulas, copies of sketches and prototypes, invoices, contracts, tax records, your lease, mailing lists, your floor plan, and more.

Thanks to technology, documentation is easy to do with a Smart Phone or digital camera. It’s making time for documentation and having a system you use in place to organize your documentation that can be challenging.

Vital records and documents should be duplicated and the print or electronic copies should be stored in multiple locations - on your computer, in the cloud, and at a Safe Offsite Location that is at least 60 miles from where you are located (or out of the region where a disaster may occur).

Additionally, to help you with the layout of systems, storage, and offices in your building, it is important to have floor plans of your building. These can show you where offices exist and where collections are stored. But they also provide information about major infrastructure systems such as water pipes, electrical wiring and outlets, natural gas systems, and lighting. Make sure you have the most up-to-date versions of your floor plans available for your review, and for fire and public safety responders, who may need these to plan for access to your damaged building.

When you gain access to your building after a disaster, do an assessment of what has been damaged. Remember that you are only looking at items and recording information at this point. Don’t move, or remove, damaged materials before documenting their location and type of damage.

Finally, document the decisions you make during your disaster or emergency response. Is an item in such poor condition after a disaster that you decide you must discard or destroy it? Photographing and documenting the item will help with your insurance claims.