Burpee Museum is closed for five holidays each year: New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve, and Christmas Day. Normally, these holidays pass quietly as people spend their holidays with family and friends and the museum reopens the next day with no problems. That was not the case for Burpee Museum employees returning to work after the Christmas Eve and Christmas Day 2013 holidays.
Staff found water covering the lobby and Mahlburg Auditorium floors. A water pipe had frozen and cracked because of the frigidly cold winter temperatures and caused a major flood in the museum. All told, over 700 gallons of water were pumped out of the Mahlburg Auditorium. But, the damage to the first floor carpet and walls paled in comparison to the damage done to specimens in collections storage below. Water rained from the ceiling in collections, damaging over 200 specimens from the Biology and Anthropology collections.
Staff and volunteers were called in to help clean up the mess. Burpee was fortunate to have the help of many volunteers during the flood clean up; without their help the work that needed to get done would have been a daunting task. Their first task was to relocate the Anthropology, Biology, and Botany collections from collections storage to the Riverview Room for assessment and basic inventory. The specimens remained stored in the Riverview Room for eight weeks while the collections storage room was dried out, repainted, and re-acclimated for specimens. Once removed from collections, the specimens were individually assessed and recommendations for their care and repair were made.
Although the specimens are back in collections and the day to day operations are back to normal at Burpee Museum, the recovery continues. The museum’s insurance plans will (and have) covered the physical damage to the building, and will cover some repair to some of the damaged specimens. The museum has also created a Specimen Adoption Program to help cover some of the costs that the insurance will not cover. If you’re interested in learning more about the Specimen Adoption Program visit the Christmas Flood Page on the Burpee Museum website.