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'We had water pouring in there'

Alex Doty • Jul 14, 2017 at 10:00 AM

GRAND HAVEN TWP. — The Tri-Cities Historical Museum wasn’t spared from the storm that hit the Grand Haven area one week ago; its Community Archive and Research Center was damaged when a tree fell on its roof.

“We were notified at 3 a.m. Friday from our alarm company that something was going on,” Executive Director Julie Bunke said of the warehousing facility, located off Hayes Street in Grand Haven Township.

When staff arrived to investigate, Bunke said they could see a large white pine tree had fallen and ripped through several sections of the roof, in the area where the museum’s archival materials are stored.

“We’d just moved our archive items there two weeks ago, and then the storm hit,” Bunke said. “A tree hit right smack dab in the middle of the storage unit, and then the water started pouring in.”

According to Bunke, the tree punctured the roof in 10 locations, allowing water to get in the building and soaking the archival boxes and their contents. The boxes contain a variety of items including photos and scrapbooks; business, school and personal records; and other local historic items.

“As far as museums and any kind of catastrophe, that’s the second worst thing that could happen (aside from fire),” Bunke said. “If that were to be lost, our history would be lost and we would never get those things back.”

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The museum staff’s quick response and disaster plan allowed about 70 percent of the boxes to be removed with little or no damage. Thirty percent of the boxes, however, were soaked with rain water, and more than 3 inches of standing water filled the building, which remained without power for three days after the storm.

“It just would have been devastating if it went unnoticed for 24-48 hours,” Bunke said.

The museum contracted with a professional environmental disaster cleaner and document drying service from Charlotte, North Carolina, which arrived Saturday to start to dry out the building and its contents.

“We didn’t hesitate to hire them, no matter the cost,” Bunke said. “Even if it was twice as much, we still would have done it because it is so important.”

Bunke said the museum staff is hopeful to make a 100 percent recovery from the disaster, and noted that they’re beginning the process of inspecting the condition of the items.

The remediation process and repair to the storage building won’t come cheap, museum officials note.

Although the museum received word from its insurance adjustor that the building restoration and damaged shelving units would be covered, the document remediation services will only be covered to a certain extent, Bunke said. To cover the rest, the museum has set up a GoFundMe page — gofundme.com/tchm-storm-damage-archive-repair — with a $20,000 goal to cover remediation and material costs, including new archival document boxes. 

“We had 500 archival boxes destroyed when we had water pouring in there,” Bunke said.

The remediation crew is expected to work through the end of the week on the archive, and the roofing contractor could be out to install a new roof next week, Bunke said.

The museum acquired the storage space in 2015, and received community support and grants to renovate the building to house the archive, as well as office space for three employees. Bunke said she hopes that the space — which contains about 70 percent of the museum’s collection not on display in the community — can be opened to the public in the future.

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