9 February 2013

Flooding closes museum gallery

By Kate Wallace, Telegraph Journal

The story of New Brunswick’s human heritage a told by the New Brunswick Museum will be abridged for the near future after a burst pipe has caused its main-floor galleries to close.

Luckily, no objects on display appear to have been harmed in the accident.

“The great thing is the artifacts were not damaged, they were behind Plexi or protected in cases,” Jane Fullerton, the museum’s CEO, said Friday.
The bad news is that exhibits on the main floor are closed indefinitely.

The flooding took place Jan. 27, when a coil in an air-handling unit at the back of the lower floor froze and split. Water ran onto the floor, and water sprayed in the area between the displays of the Turnbull Workshop and Sullivan’s Bar. Damage extended to the area around displays interpreting urban life in New Brunswick.

“It was found very quickly,” Fullerton said of the breach, but it took a while to get the water turned off.

Walls, ceilings and display cases were damaged. Thanks to the quick reaction by staff, artifacts and exhibits were moved from harm’s way.

“We’re still assessing the pieces. So far we have not found any that have any damage,” Fullerton said.

There are still some larger industrial pieces that will need to be examined by a conservator, but even if they were damaged, “it will be minimal, because it’s certainly not visible to us at all,” Fullerton said. “Ideally there’s none at all but I won’t say that quite yet.”

Fullerton praised museum employees for their hard work following the accident, including adjusting programming to focus on the natural history and fine-art collections housed in upper-floor galleries, which were undamaged in the flooding.

“There is an impact on programs,” Fullerton said, including both permanent exhibitions and temporary shows, as that space is currently being used for artifact storage.

“That’s why we’ve reduced our general admission rate,” Fullerton said. “Because people can’t have the full experience that they would have at the museum.”
It is cut by $1, from the usual adult rate of $7.

With the cleanup nearly complete, the next step is renovations.

“There’s a significant amount of repair that will need to be done,” she said. That work will be complicated by the sensitive requirements of the museum, which closely controls for humidity, dust and temperature.

She isn’t sure when that will be complete, or what the timeline is for reopening.

“In the next couple of weeks we’ll be able to look at our next steps as far as regaining use of that area,” she said.

The museum is a tenant in Market Square, and the province is responsible for the lease. Fullerton does not yet have an estimate of the cost of the damages, or who will be responsible for them.

“I don’t have a sense of the cost, we’ve just been getting it cleaned up,” Fullerton said. “We haven’t seen any bills yet.”