A major clean-up operation is under way at Amgueddfa Pontypridd (Pontypridd Museum) after its storeroom was badly flooded during Storm Dennis last weekend.
Heavy rain brought the River Taff to its highest level in 40 years on Sunday, inundating hundreds of properties in the south Wales town.
The flood has caused “devastating” damage to the museum’s stored collections, which are in the basement of the former chapel that houses the museum.
The museum’s team of four staff, along with volunteers and students from Cardiff University’s conservation course, are currently sorting through the mud and silt-covered storeroom to salvage as much as they can.
“It’s unlike anything we’ve dealt with before – it’s been very much a learning curve,” said Pontypridd curator Morwenna Lewis, although she added that the museum got off lightly compared to other buildings in the town.
Another spell of heavy rain is forecast this weekend, making the clean-up even more urgent.
While the majority of significant items in the collection are safe, some of the material in the storeroom is beyond repair.
“We’re having to triage as we go along,” Lewis said. “There’s some stuff we have condemned and we are just having to throw it on the skip after documenting it. We’ve got to be ruthless. ”
Lewis said the wellbeing of those helping out with the clean-up came first. “It’s slow going and access to the storeroom is not ideal. One of our main priorities is to try to keep to our hours and not do too much. It’s about being able to turn up every day and not frazzle ourselves."
"It's a devastating loss but we have to keep it in perspective," she added.
Lewis praised the local museum community, which has rallied round with offers of help. Glamorgan Archives and Nant Garw have offered space to store the salvaged collections, while other institutions have pitched in with dehumidifiers and other equipment, as well as offers of assistance with conservation.
“We’re doing as best as we can and we’re well supported. The museum community in south Wales has been incredible. Community spirit is alive and well here.”
For any other museum looking to offer assistence, help with transportation of kit to Pontypridd is much needed because none of the staff can leave the site at present, she said.
Severe flooding has also hit Ironbridge in Shropshire, home to the Unesco World Heritage Site managed by Ironbridge Gorge Museums Trust. Most of the trust’s 10 sites are closed this week, apart from Blists Hill Victorian Town and Enginuity, Museum of Iron and the Furnace Kitchen in Coalbrookdale. The trust has not yet confirmed if the flooding has caused any damage to its sites.
A number of other museums have taken or are considering precautionary measures in response to the current flood warnings. Brooklands Museum in Weybridge has moved some of its collections for the second time in two months, while the Worcester Royal Infirmary exhibition has a plan to move all of its stored objects to a secondary site if necessary to ensure their safety.