It gurgles up through the floor in the basement. It finds the gaps between ground-level windows, puddling around exhibits. It sneaks into the ductwork, then meanders the building and drips onto display cases. It creeps through the ceiling in locked collection rooms, thief-like, and pools on the floor. Staff have been experimenting with defenses: Candy-red flood barriers lined up outside windows. Sensors that resemble electronic mouse traps, deployed throughout the building, that trigger alarms when wet. Plastic bins on wheels, filled with a version of cat litter, to be rushed back and forth to soak up the water. So far, the museum’s holdings have escaped damage. But “We’re kind of in trial and error,” said Ryan Doyle, a facilities manager at the Smithsonian. “It’s about managing water.” An assessment of the Smithsonian’s vulnerabilities, released last month, reveals the scale of the challenge: Not only are artifacts stored in basements in danger, but floods could knock out electrical and ventilation systems in the basements that keep the humidity at the right level to protect priceless art, textiles, documents and specimens on display. Of all its facilities, the Smithsonian ranks American History as the most vulnerable, followed by its next door neighbor, the National Museum of Natural History.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.