Within a day, a disaster recovery team removed the items, which were then vacuum frozen. An estimated 90 percent of it was salvaged, comprising four hundred boxes placed on thirteen pallets and shrink-wrapped, weighing over nine thousand pounds. An NEH grant will help with the recovery and preservation of the materials, along with development of a disaster plan for the library and its special collections.
That the Yarrow canvas survived shouldn’t come as a surprise. The portrait of an African American painted at this time in U.S. history was rare, and it had caught the attention of James H. Johnston of Washington, who researched Yarrow’s story for three years and wrote about him in the Washington Post.
According to Johnston’s 2006 Post article, Yarrow himself was a survivor, having amassed a hundred-dollar nest egg for his retirement. Twice, merchants who held the money for him lost it when their businesses failed. Yarrow scraped and saved a third time, putting aside two hundred dollars, which he used to buy shares in Georgetown’s Columbia Bank, finally allowing him to support himself in retirement with the interest from his investment.