Yes, we had a flood, which was not as disastrous as it could have been. Most of the water flowed down the spiral staircase or through the floor and affected the museum galleries below us on every floor. Those galleries were closed that day and some still have warped floorboards.
The flood started in our Mosses and Liverworts room on the 5th floor, where a water mains pipe fed into a smaller pipe. It used to feed a water tank in that room, which is no longer there. The pressure joint between the two pipes burst open in the middle of the night and water flooded out for a few hours before University security staff responded to the fire alarm. They had to break open the door at the top of the spiral staircase to get in.
Luckily most of our specimens were off the floor on shelves but some were damaged by spray in that room. The few boxes of specimens on the floor (that suffered the most) were unnamed, unincorporated or labelled “Offer or dispose”. They still all had to be dried out!
We found that each shelf acted like a floor: a horizontal surface on which puddles sat, slowly seeping into boxes. Only perforated shelving would reduce this, I suppose.
The Manchester Museum’s wonderful conservation team and house services team came in during the night and grabbed boxes & specimens to lay out on extra benches on blotting paper. We had lots of soggy boxes, which were thrown out, but the specimens inside were not as soggy and could be dried out and saved. Some of the paper is a bit crinkly but the plants just dried out and the ink on the labels stayed. Good old Victorian indian ink and good quality paper!
Conservation already had a flood plan and some boxes of gear to grab, which was great, but there were no torches, which they needed because the flood had shorted the electric circuit and the emergency lights hadn’t come on. Thank goodness for torch apps! But at the time, nobody knew what was important, fragile or to be disposed of.
My role over the next few days was to check and turn everything laid out to dry. Folders and packets of specimens had been laid out on every available surface. Some offprints were made of strange shiny paper which wouldn’t dry and went mouldy after a week so we threw those away. Some specimens were left without a home as the box and outside label had been thrown away.
We are mostly back to normal after the flood. The water pipe was sealed and removed, and specimens have been put in new boxes and are back on the shelves. Ready for the next project: Roller racking in the Quad room!