UIMA Flood Update

We know you've all been curious about how the Museum of Art is faring during this disaster. Below you will find a note from UIMA Interim Director Pamela White telling detailing some of the events leading up to and during the flood. And just another reminder: Museum offices are currently located at 11 Macbride Hall, and staff members can be reached at the same phone numbers and e-mail addresses.

Few bright spots are easily visible amid the heartbreaking images of flooding and destruction from Iowa City, the state of Iowa, and the entire Midwest. Thankfully, because of an immense effort by a dedicated team of staff members, outside experts, student employees, and museum volunteers, I am able to report that the UI Museum of Art is one of those fortunate bright spots.
Working nearly non-stop during the week of June 9, we were able to evacuate artworks totaling approximately 99 percent of the value of our collection. That figure represents nearly 80 percent of the 13,000 works of art in our collection ­-- all evacuated in less than four days.

This is an incredible success story, and it wouldn’t have been possible without the proactive planning of the university and the massive outpouring of support from UIMA and Pentacrest Museums staff, student employees, and volunteers.

The UIMA staff received official word of evacuation Monday, June 9. Working with university representatives, we immediately implemented the UIMA flood plan. Twenty-four-hour security was arranged to monitor the rising floodwaters and ensure the security of the building and the art work. By the end of the day, the university had nearly completed a massive concrete and sandbag dike between the museum and the rising river.

Meanwhile, inside the museum, a team of the finest art professionals, art handlers, and conservators arrived to help UIMA staff, student employees, and museum volunteers. Personnel from the Pentacrest Museums contributed their expertise, manpower, and space. Together, these groups began working around the clock to pack the UIMA collection for removal under the direction of UIMA staff members Jeff Martin, Kathleen Edwards, Steve Erickson, Christopher Roy, and David Riep.

The first of three semi-trailer trucks loaded with art work departed for a secure art-storage unit in Chicago on Wednesday, June 11. The ensuing two days marked the river’s most rapid ascent, according to the National Weather Service. Between 7 p.m. Thursday and 10 a.m. Friday, the Iowa River rose nearly 2.5 feet to reach 30 feet -- not far from its June 15 crest at 31.53 feet. Because of this quicker-than-expected rise, the university closed many of the arts campus buildings much earlier than originally scheduled. At 7:45 a.m. Friday, the museum was secured, and the final truck departed for Chicago.

While some art had to be left inside the museum, in the wee hours of the morning on Friday workers had moved everything they could to the highest possible levels inside the building. This past weekend, floodwaters had receded enough to allow entry to the museum. Upon inspection it appears that only a few inches of water intruded onto the main floor -- not three to four feet as previously estimated. Thanks to the incredible efforts of everyone involved in the museum's evacuation, nearly everything that remained in the building escaped floodwaters.

Moving the collection was a monumental task, and it is impossible to stress enough just how important the joint efforts and cooperation of staff, student employees, and volunteers have been throughout this process. I’ve witnessed guards working 12-hour shifts for days on end to secure the art work, staff members spending the night at the museum to squeeze every last minute from the day, volunteers willing to come in at 10 p.m. to help however they can, and countless other selfless acts. We are all so incredibly fortunate to have such a dedicated and professional team protecting the art works we love.

It is too early to estimate when the Museum of Art building might be fully operational. In the interim, we are sharing space with wonderfully accommodating members of the Pentacrest Museum staff and have relocated our main office to Room 11 Macbride Hall. We are reachable at our regular phone numbers and email addresses.

Numerous people have offered assistance to the museum. I deeply appreciate these expressions of concern and support. For those who wish to donate to the museum for flood relief, our annual fund through the University of Iowa Foundation will be used specifically for renovations and any other expenses associated with recovery. We would also like to encourage people to consider giving to the general university flood relief fund. ­

All around us, families, students, professors, business owners, and cultural organizations are struggling to move forward as the floodwaters recede. It's a slow-moving and often painful process, but here at the UIMA we have much to be grateful for. We have saved – not lost – the priceless art collection that serves as a resource for so many. We look forward to your continued support in the coming days, and we know that together we will overcome the challenges that lie ahead.

---Pamela White, UIMA Interim Director and Director of the Pentacrest Museums

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