State of Blitz

January 9–13, 2012, marks the museum’s annual BLITZ: a five-day closure wherein various maintenance projects are undertaken to refresh and revitalize the exhibitions, amenities and public spaces. All staff members are encouraged to lend a hand in the various tasks that need to be accomplished. Although I have participated in the blitz many times, this is my first year organizing it. I’ve got to say, so far I think I am on top of it!

A museum conservator uses a brush to clean a mounted Arctic fox (Vulpes lagopus).

Cleaning a giant, 100 year-old, four-storey, 18 757 square-metre castle is just like cleaning one’s house… only times about 100. The exhibitions are like the bedrooms—of which there are 10. There are 20 bathrooms and five dining rooms. The boardrooms are the living rooms—let’s say there are four. Then three kitchens, two foyers, two theatres and one massive sub-basement, which is a spiderweb of hallways and storage rooms. Oh! and the 40 or so offices—those are the closets—well, mine is anyway… but that’s another story for another day.

A museum conservator works on our blue-whale skeleton (Balaenoptera musculus).

Every project deserves a good To-Do List. Here is mine:

1. Be prepared: The first order of business is to know the job. Get to know the building, figure out what needs to be done and by whom. Just as I don’t let my husband do the laundry (anymore), not just anybody can clean an 85 million-year-old fossilized dinosaur. Make a plan of who, what and where. Then figure out what supplies are needed. Pails, rags and mops… check. Elevated Work Surface and HEPA vacuum… huh?

Note to self: Is there some sort of Facilities Maintenance Dictionary?

A staff member vacuums the "ground" in a diorama.

2. From top to bottom: When I’m cleaning at home, I start with the dusting, and end with the sweeping. All the dust from the top has to fall down… so if you sweep first, you’re just going to need to sweep again after dusting. Once I figure out the “who, what and where” above, then I can plan the “when”. I’ve scheduled the high dusting at the beginning of Blitz week, while the actual exhibits are cleaned later in the week.

3. Calling for back-up: No one person has to go it alone; there are so many knowledgeable staff members here to help. This is good, because I have NO idea how to clean a muskox, a meteor or a mallard. Nor do I know which products to use for dinosaur dung, fish feces or slug slime. Plus, getting all the staff members together, to lend a hand, gives us an opportunity to learn about each other’s specialties and interests.

4. Plan for sustenance rejuvenation: If you’ve ever asked for help moving, building a deck or painting your house then you know that help always comes at a price. Typically that price is food—more specifically: PIZZA. To keep the troops motivated and energized I plan to have coffee, juice and muffins in the mornings and Pizza for lunch. Nothing says “thank you” like caffeine and carbs.

A staff member vacuums behind the transparent panel protecting a panel-mounted fossil.

So… somewhere in the back of my mind there is still a nagging little voice that keeps saying: “You forgot something! Something REALLY important…but I’m not telling you what it is!” I’m hoping that, if that is the case, the chocolate-chip muffins will cause enough of a distraction that nobody else notices.

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