LANSING, Mich. — A 100-year-old water pipe burst and flooded the Michigan Women’s Historical Center and Hall of Fame last month, damaging its collection.
It was the museum's second flood in 34 years.
The pipe "burst overnight unfortunately, so we didn’t even realize it until we came in the next morning and there was about five inches of water covering the entire museum floor,” said Meaghan Bergman, Michigan Women Forward HERstory Museum Director.
Bergman quickly pulled together a team of volunteers, who moved the majority of the collection out of the building in a matter of hours, but the damage had been done.
“It was weird because the walls—they’d already started taking things off the walls—so the walls were bare, and they were starting to take the drywall down and stuff like that because everything had just been completely soaked. I was told there was like a foot of standing water in some places,” said Sara Cook, museum intern and post-flood volunteer.
The HERstory museum, formerly a space celebrating the accomplishments and stories of Michigan women, is now “an empty space waiting to be renovated,” Bergman said.
The museum’s landlord is allowing them to store the collection in one of his other buildings, where Bergman has begun to assess the damaged pieces and try to salvage them.
“Unfortunately, I was not prepared for a flood, so many of the exhibits and many of the boxes with our collection were just sitting on the floor in our storage space…and, yeah…there’s quite a bit of damage.”
A few pieces are damaged beyond repair, but not all hope is lost.
“I’ve gotten a lot of help and feedback from experts on this, in the museum field. There are some things that I think we can restore,” Bergman said.
Both Bergman and Cook recall visiting the historical center as children.
“It used to be a house on Malcom X, and I remember as a little girl going there and being completely amazed because I was like, ‘I didn’t know that girls could do this stuff!’" Cook explained.
“It’s just really, really important that young women, little girls and young men start to recognize that women hold up half the sky…I think Women’s History Center is a great kind of stepping-stone to getting there…to getting to a world where true gender equity exists,” Bergman said.
Bergman says the best way for the community to support the museum is to donate. You can do that here.