Life as the textile expert at a regional history museum

Friday, June 22, 2012

Woman Discovered Unconscious On Top of Museum Artifact, Artifact Unharmed

One of the main reasons my museum is moving is that a freeway extension is about to built right on top of us. The upside is that right before we vacate we can do things like roller skate through the building and write on the walls, but the downside is that nothing is getting fixed any more and the place is sort of going to seed.

A couple months ago a visitor stole the faucet handles in one of the bathrooms. Only one handle was replaced since there is only cold water in the building anyway. When the movers needed to have better access to a large cabinet, they just cut a giant hole in the wall. Things like that. Now the creepiness level has been raised because the museum is closed to the public and some of the staff have moved to the new off-site building. So large areas of the museum are dark and I'm often the only one down in my department.

Last week I was alone in collections, vacuuming an artifact. There was a strange smell in the area which hadn't been there before. I kept trying to ignore it and tell myself it was nothing, but it was really bothering me. It also smelled vaguely like gas. So it was that awkward moment where you don't want to be that person who has a "delicate" nose and complains about stupid things, but you also don't want to be that person who dies in a back corner of the museum and isn't found for three days.

Our regular facilities guy is rarely in the building because he is busy with our two other buildings (you know, the ones that aren't going to be demolished in six months), so I sought out our exhibits head who is knowledgeable about the building as well. The boiler room is right next to the conservation lab (awesome!) so at first he was unconcerned and thought it was just a regular smell emanating from our ancient heating system.  Just to be safe he decided to take a look around, and I went back to what I was doing. It seemed like he had been in there a long time, and I started to wonder how long I should wait before assembling a rescue mission. But right as I was imagining dragging him to safety before the fumes overwhelmed me, he came out wiping something smelly off his hands.

"Well, it was probably good you said something."

Turns out there was a small leak and something gross was dripping. The facilities guy clearly knew about it because he had put a bucket out, but the bucket had just now overflowed. So the full bucket was moved out of the way and replaced with an empty one.

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