Burpee Museum still assessing damage after Christmas flood

By Jim Hagerty
Staff Writer

Although the Burpee Museum of Natural History is still assessing the impact of a flood that occurred over the Christmas holiday, the museum has reopened and displays are being repaired.

Sometime between 5:30 p.m., Monday, Dec. 23, and Christmas Eve, a broken water pipe on the museum’s upper level began seeping water down to the lower part of the facility, leaving hundreds of collections and displays at risk.

Several collections were affected, including biological and anthropological displays. While each was saved in the cleanup, humidity levels, which rose to 100 percent, took significant tolls on the taxidermy, causing skins to fall off and preserved artifacts to split. By Friday, Dec. 27, the collections were moved to the banquet area, where they were protected from further damage.

Staff quickly turned to other museums, such as Chicago’s Field Museum and Logan Museum of Anthropology in Beloit, Wis., for help in saving the pieces. Experts are currently assisting in returning items to their original condition.

Water also leaked into the lobby, gift shop and auditorium. In all, the museum contained more than 5 inches of standing water before the leak was stopped.

“Water was coming through the walls and through light fixtures,” Executive Director Maureen Mall said. “It was literally raining in here. It’s been a mess.”

A cause of the broken pipe is not known.

The Burpee Museum of Natural History is at 737 N. Main St., Rockford. Opened in 1942, Burpee is the home of several renowned collections and exhibits, including Jane, the world’s best-preserved fossil of a juvenile Tyrannosaurus rex, and the Carboniferous Coal Forest, a two-story replica of the local landscape as it existed 300 million years ago.

Burpee also hosts an array of temporary collections and events such as Homer’s Odyssey (now open) and the upcoming Paleo Fest (March 8-9, 2014).

Hours are 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week.

To make donations, or for more information, call (815) 965-3433 or visit the Burpee website, burpee.org.

From the Jan. 8-14, 2014, issue

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