Chaos in the vault!

Chaos in the vault!

What do you think when you see this picture?  Some might think, “Wow, what medical hazard has be-fallen this room”, while others might think, “That’s a heck of a lot of plastic and tape”.  In actuality, it’s something that would strike fear in the hearts of most staff who work in the collections of a museum.  That’s right, painting in the vault.  Specifically the ceiling of the vault.  For the past year or so those of us working in the collection storage areas of the Museum had noticed some of the paint on the ceiling of the vault flaking up.  After assuring ourselves through inspection of the ceiling that no leaks were present, it was discovered that certain impurities of the original poured concrete ceilings were working their way out the concrete and causing the paint to flake up.  While the impurities weren’t harming the structural integrity of the vault, it looked quite bad and paint was falling onto the upper shelving of the vault.  So after considering several aspects of the Museum (current tour schedule, room usage among others) it was decided that August would be the best time for the painting to commence.  So once that was figured out we can go ahead and start breaking out the paint brushes right?  Wrong.  What next commenced was about a two months worth of planning.  This planning included, figuring out how to tent certain shelves so that objects could be left in place but with protective covering, deciding what objects should be moved from the vault for their safety, where to move those objects to, as well as what is the best kind of paint to use in the vault so that the fumes coming from the paint wouldn’t harm objects left in the storage area.  Now, knowing that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, I can say we’ve almost completed this project with no causalities (either human or artifact).  All of the objects left in the vault are fine, the vault itself was painted and thoroughly cleaned, and next week we plan on moving all of the objects that were moved into the vault back into their normal resting places.  Ultimately I can say that our collection staff did a great job in the planning and execution of this process but, as I’ve told them many times throughout this process, let’s hope we never have to do it again!

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