Downpour floods museum basement, damages hundreds of artworks
A woman wait at the bottom of the steps as other people walk though water at the Place d'Armes metro station in Montreal on Tuesday, May 29, 2012. (Andy Blatchford / THE CANADIAN PRESS)
Published Wednesday, May 30, 2012 5:30PM EDT
Last Updated Monday, June 11, 2012 6:23PM EDT
"We have one to three feet of water in our basements," Paulette Gagnon, director of the Montreal museum of contemporary art, said Wednesday.
"Part of the basement holds our reserves so of course some of our reserves were damaged."
More than 50 millimetres of rain fell in a half-hour Tuesday evening, causing water and sewage to erupt from some city manholes. One line of the subway system was shut down as water poured into stations, an expressway was flooded and homes and businesses reported torrents of water pouring into their basements.
One hard-hit area was Montreal's downtown, where the museum is located.
Gagnon said Wednesday it is still too early to say the extent of the damage or its cost but she says she believes most of the objects can be repaired.
"It's a long process, a long process," she said in a telephone interview. "It's not a dozen works, it's hundreds. But we still don't know the exact number. We don't know the total losses. We still have to make an evaluation."
This is the fourth time the museum has seen serious flooding, which has been blamed on a drainage problem. Gagnon said this is the worst, however, "because it's the largest number of works that have been affected."
A special cleaning and decontamination team has been at work in the museum since Tuesday night and are expected to take at least a week to complete their work.
Gagnon said a solution must be found to the problem so a similar incident won't happen again.
"It doesn't make any sense," she said. "It's a museum. It can't be flooded every time there is a downpour.
"It's part of our heritage . . . we have to protect it and put it in a secure place. That's why museums exist and if our basements aren't adequate then there's a big problem."
The extent of the damage caused the museum to cut short one exhibit. It was not damaged by the flood but it was located in the basement where the cleaning crews are working. Another event planned for June 1 has also been postponed.