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UBC anthropology collection survives close call after flood

Disaster recovery workers and a security guard look on as carpet cleaning machines are seen on the ground after a water main burst and flooded the lobby of the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, Wednesday January 29, 2014.

DARRYL DYCK/The Globe and Mail

Despite flooding that had water rushing down through the entrance and into the lobby of Vancouver's Museum of Anthropology, the MOA's collection has been spared.

"To our knowledge, no objects have been damaged," said MOA assistant director Anna Pappalardo, standing outside the museum on the UBC campus as crews continued to mop up.

"Conservation staff have been monitoring everything. To our knowledge, no water has gone into collections areas or into the public display areas, so we're very lucky."

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Ms. Pappalardo was one of the museum staff who sprang into action after a water main break on Northwest Marine Drive caused flooding one worker on the scene described as a swimming pool.

Among those sandbagging were MOA director Anthony Shelton and Ms. Pappalardo. "I was first on the scene, watching the river come down the stairs," she said.

It happened shortly after 3:00 Wednesday afternoon, and the water continued to run for about 10 minutes, according to MOA communications coordinator Emma Fennell.

"It got to the very edge of the lobby, so about as close as it could get to entering the galleries without entering the galleries," said Ms. Fennell. "It was a close call."

Just down the ramp from the lobby is the museum's exquisite Great Hall, which contains majestic Northwest Coast totem poles and house posts and other precious artifacts, including bentwood boxes and a canoe. There are carvings and totem pole fragments along the ramp as well, as you descend.

With the flooding contained to the lobby of the Arthur Erickson-designed museum, Ms. Fennell said there was initially some concern about two works: a Susan Point mosaic, Salish Footprint, outside the front doors, and a pole by South Pacific carver Teddy Balangu inside the lobby at the gift shop entrrance. But the mosaic was built to withstand the elements, Ms. Pappalardo said, and the pole is not part of the MOA collection. Nor did there appear to be any damage, once the mud was cleared from it.

A further assessment of the collection will be conducted within the next couple of days. "We can't really assess the extent [of any damage] until all the water's out and we go from stopping the flood to assessing," said Ms. Fennell.

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The museum was closed on Wednesday as a result of the flooding, with people who came by to visit offered a pass for a free entrance at a future date. But the museum is to re-open on Thursday.

"Our carpet's drying out, and it's looking good," said Ms. Fennell.

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About the Author
Western Arts Correspondent

Marsha Lederman is the Western Arts Correspondent for The Globe and Mail, based in Vancouver. She covers the film and television industry, visual art, literature, music, theatre, dance, cultural policy, and other related areas. More


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