Burpee Museum cleaning up after burst pipe causes flooding, delays re-opening

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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) ─ The Burpee Museum of Natural History, 737 N. Main St., has been closed for months due to COVID-19 restrictions. Visitors had been set to return Friday, but a major setback prevented the grand re-opening from happening.

“When she opened the door behind visitor services, water started gushing out like a river,” Burpee Museum Executive Director, Anne Weerda shared.

Cleanup is well underway at Burpee after a pipe burst Monday, leading to a flood on the museum’s first floor. According to Weerda, carpets, walls, and thousands of specimens were all left soaked.

“First we have to assess some of these pieces and see about the damage,” Weerda said. “Anything that’s stored in a wooden box, for example, will be growing it’s own micro-climate and very dangerous for the items that are inside and potentially damaging them. So, we have to really take care and make sure we don’t miss anything.”

“Aside from the loss of the items that are damaged, I think that might be the most painful part,” she added. “We miss our visitors. We were sold out on Friday, nearly sold out on Saturday, we were ready to be back in the swing of things with our community. We now have to postpone that.”

Weerda said the damage could have been much worse, if it had not been for the help of dedicated staff members and first responders.

“I have to tip the hat to some of my staff who were standing at the edge of the water and literally beating it away with squeegees and wet dry vacs, because it wasn’t going to go into the coal forest, we didn’t want it at Jane. They were pushing that water back into the lobby, like waves,” Weerda shared.

Burpee experienced a similar flood in December 2013. Weerda said it will take a long road to restore all of the museum’s collections, but says she has no doubt the museum will once again recover from the setback.

“We’re going to be better than ever, because we already have our IDNR exhibits opening up that are brand new,” Weerda said. “And the lobby could use a fresh coat of paint anyways, so maybe it’s time.”

Weerda hopes Burpee Museum will be set to re-open in the next two weeks.

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