22: It never rains but it pours…

We had a minor setback last week, when our Fire Alarm went off at 6.30 on Saturday morning.  We feared the worst, as so many terrible things happen during building works – remember the Royal Clarence Hotel in Exeter just two years ago?  Fortunately it turned out not to be the builders’ fault, but our old friends – a combination of flat lead roofing, blocked downpipes and terrible North Devon weather.  Luckily for us the Fire Brigade were swiftly on site, unblocked the gullies and moved some storage units to safe places.  The rain water managed to avoid the collections, but came all the way down through the ceiling rose in our entrance hall and was dripping off the suspended elephant’s feet!


The photo on the left shows an experiment to see whether there is more water above the attic ceiling that might cause it to collapse.  Thankfully there wasn’t.



And pictured here is our amazing museum emergency response kit, packed with clipboards and labels and gloves and hazard suits and plastic bags and floodwater booms, and sealed up with yellow cable ties to stop anyone “borrowing” a vital pair of scissors or reel of sticky labels.  We haven’t used it yet – but that may be because our innate unflappability means that our threshold for declaring an “Emergency” is very high indeed!



Meanwhile the project continues of course, and although the extension is still only a framework we are having to think about colours and finishes.  The new Temporary Exhibition rooms will be classic “white box” spaces, but should we have oak skirtings?  And what colour should the doors be?


Even more important is the choice of colour for the walls in the old entrance hall, which is being “restored to its former glory”.  Our plan is to hang as many of our oil paintings as possible on the staircase walls – these are mostly portraits including the originators of the Literary and Scientific Institute and other local worthies.

We need to find a colour that will set the paintings off, but luckily we have a little while to think about it.  We’re leaning towards red or possibly green – here are some of the Dulux colours we can choose from.


We won’t be changing the paintings over very often (oil paintings are not nearly as susceptible to light damage as watercolours are), but it’s going to be very difficult to hang them all on the staircase wall without messing the wall up.  Fortunately our Architect James Crick has found a company that can help with a tracking system that means we can load the paintings up from the landing and push them along to their final position.  Who would have thought that there is a market leading business in South Molton that provides these systems internationally, including to the V&A and Tate galleries?


We can’t wait to show off these paintings, most of which have been in the attic for many years, and tell the stories of these North Devon people.

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