Flood

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wiping wet edges of fungi specimens
wiping wet edges of fungi specimens

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.

several hours later. The source of the flood is the pipe with the red tap on the back wall.  It is just visible behind the stairs.
several hours later. The source of the flood is the pipe with the red tap on the back wall. It is just visible behind the stairs.

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.

Soggy Solander boxes. The sides had bowed so couldn't be saved. We threw away about 40 of them.
Soggy Solander boxes. The sides had bowed so couldn’t be saved. We threw away about 40 of them.
materia medica specimens drying on tissue next to their broken boxes
materia medica specimens drying on tissue next to their broken boxes

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.

specimens & books laid out to dry
specimens & books laid out to dry

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!

boxes with wet sides. Box discarded & specimens laid out to dry
boxes with wet sides. Box discarded & specimens laid out to dry
These british flowering plant specimens were part of our reserve collections but still had to be laid out to dry
These british flowering plant specimens were part of our reserve collections but still had to be laid out to dry

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.

this is the floor below. The flood water got into the cupboards by dripping through the ceiling
this is the floor below. The flood water got into the cupboards by dripping through the ceiling
the kitchen on the 3rd floor, not yet mopped. Water is about 1cm deep
the kitchen on the 3rd floor, not yet mopped. Water is about 1cm deep

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!

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One thought on “Flood

    justine said:
    December 15, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    Reblogged this on NatSCA.

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