Faced with the huge task of relocating a significant volume of the Museum's collection within the Museum's Research Facility in Isel Park, Stoke, there has been considerable planning and physical work completed since mid-January when the building was declared earthquake prone.
The massive deluge on the evening of Sunday 21 April resulted in almost 15cm of silty water flowing through the Museum's Elms Street site which consists of a workshop and low risk storage. A small number of items got wet feet but we were extremely fortunate to have the vast majority of objects elevated on shelves or pallets. Extremely fortunate too that the deluge affected Orphanage Creek rather than Poorman's Stream beside our Research Facility.
We did lose a number of smaller electrical items and in the workshop area a significant quantity of exhibition sets and furniture, built with MDF, have suffered enough water damage to require disposal.
The risks associated with having buildings in such a low lying area are sadly very well demonstrated by this event. Some of our neighbours had over a metre of mud and water through their premises which could have been catastrophic for us rather than just 'disastrous'. The value of staff training becomes very apparent at such times.
The Collections Services team, assisted by a number of other staff, swung into action doing their absolute best to retrieve the situation. This involved a lot of hard physical work, careful lifting and shifting, and tracking of material.
The cleanup at Elms Street is far from complete but the bulk of water and silt has been removed. Washing and drying the floors is an important step. The major risk at this point is a mould outbreak; the temperature and humidity both need to be carefully controlled during the clean-up process to avoid this. The focus has moved to the workshop bay, which needs to have material removed from it, then be cleaned of silt and dried. This is likely to be a full weeks work.
The positive support and confidence shown by our insurance company has been greatly appreciated.
Several staff are attending a "Disaster Preparedness Workshop" in Marlborough next week. This is the ideal opportunity to share their experience with others and learn about the quake proofing advice from Christchurch. Our Nelson Provincial Museum staff do have a responsibility to be ready to help smaller regional museums should they find themselves in a similar position.
One of the serious consequences though is the delay to the really important goal of re-occupying the Research Facility. The “urgent” overtook the “important” over the last couple of weeks with some cost consequences due to extended hire periods of specialist equipment.
Back at the Collection & Research Facility the unloading of the Library loft store is near completion. This means that the vertical acroprops can soon be removed. The lateral props, visible from outside the building, will also be able to be removed around the same time. Staff will then reoccupy that end of the building and begin to catch up on the backlog of enquiries and reproduction requests, accumulated in the last four months, as well as general collections work which has been on hold. As the remainder of the building has not be repaired, staff, usually located in other areas of the building, will be working in the Library for the next 6-8 weeks. This will delay the public access to the Research Facility.
The loss of nearly 160 cubic metres of storage and work space will have quite an impact on the storage capacity and staff work areas in the Research Facility. The publications store is very close to capacity, and a large general collections store is also much fuller than it was 3 months ago.
At the eastern end of the building the Resource Management and Building consent applications have been lodged with the Nelson City Council. The current remedial work scheme involving the permanent installation of steel bracing and lateral props is about the fourth or fifth iteration and the flow-on consequences are still being evaluated. For example, we need to understand from OPUS about the level of vibration likely to be caused by the pile driving. This is because of the fragile nature of what is stored in areas located close to where remedial work is planned.
As part of the consents process we are also required to re-evaluate disabled access, and the fire access and alarm systems.
When staff have a detailed workplan for the steelwork, planning and preparation for the installation will get underway which is estimated to be at least 2 weeks work. This is likely to involve relocating significant areas of the collection, however this time the objects will be returned to storage when the remedial work is complete.
Current indications are that the staff are most unlikely to be able to make full normal use of the building before the end of June. This is at least a month later than originally hoped. There will be a significant amount of data entry required to ensure that the Museum's Collection Management System records reflect the current locations of all moved objects. We do apologise for the inconvenience. Staff will continue to answer inquiries which come in by phone or email, information can be found here.
The setback caused by the flood at Elm Street is really unfortunate but does serve to highlight what a precarious position we are in with regards to collection storage.
This site is where staff develop exhibitions and care for our regional treasures taonga, including one of New Zealand's most significant photographic collections. Extensive historical archives and library resources are also stored here. Trained staff are available to assist visitors with research.
The Nelson Provincial Museum
Isel Park, Stoke
Tel. +64 3 547 9740
Fax. +64 3 547 8549
The facility will be open, by appointment, Tuesday to Friday, 12.30pm to 4.30pm. The facility will be closed Saturday to Monday inclusive.
Free Admission - donations are appreciated. Research and reproduction fees may apply
The Nelson Provincial Museum
Pupuri Taonga o Te Tai Ao
PO Box 853, Nelson 7040, New Zealand