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Noxious Fumes

Posted on August 12, 2014 by in The OFI Blog

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Smithsonian Office of Facilities Management and Reliability (OFMR) Intern, Sarah Gaines recently joined a group of Interns to tour the Smithsonian Museum Support Center (MSC). Here is what she had to say about her experience:

Legend has it that the Ark of the Covenant resides somewhere deep in the bowels of the Smithsonian Museum Support Center.  Although I can neither confirm nor deny this, I did see many artifacts that took my breath away as we toured the five football field-sized storage PODS.  Less than one percent of a museum’s collection is typically exhibited at any given time.  The rest is stored at MSC, a facility which has to accommodate the needs of each specific specimen or artifact.  MSC is home to everything from shrunken heads to giant squid to mysterious celestial meteorites.  Many of the storage structures must be custom built, for example the special steel frame on wheels for the Egyptian mummified bull from 200 BC.  Air quality conditions are also key to preserving the collections, and to maintaining a safe facility for the MSC staff and researchers who need to access them.  POD 5, the facility’s newest addition, houses the Smithsonian’s Invertebrate Zoology collection.  Due to the noxious fumes and fire risks of the hazardous chemicals used to preserve the specimens, that space has a very high rate of air circulation, floor drains and troughs in case of spills, and equipment to ground the barrels of formalin.  As OFMR interns, we were just as awe-struck by the facility as we were by the unbelievably cool collections.