Stormy weather.

Selina and I have been given an exciting task.

Are you all sitting down? I hope so.



We have been asked to embark on a researching adventure, and then compile the data we collect concerning the current climate control system implemented at the Social History Center into a paper!

OK, so maybe not what you were expecting, but it’s gotten our engines all revved up and has been consuming our lives for the past few days.  In a good way. Have you ever started to read a book and then gotten so immersed and invested in the plot and with the characters that you have trouble pulling away to live your life and experience the sun and eat food other than cereal until you’ve finished it? In that kind of way.

While we have already printed out an entire deciduous forest’s worth of paper about other museums’ past climate issues and applied solutions, the main problems plaguing the attempt at controlling the climate at the Iziko is beyond the control of the staff and especially of Selina and me. For instance, each day – as previously mentioned in some prior blog post that I either posted on this wordpress account or in the wordpress account in my head – Janine traverses through the 8 floors of collection stores to manually document the relative humidity and temperatures of each room.  After these statistics are committed to her notepad, she compares the data to the numbers documented by the computer program, Plant Visor PRO, used by the Social History Center to monitor the climate control.

Herein lies the problem.

This afternoon, the relative humidity we copied down for each of the rooms differed from the computer’s reading by 5-7%. When we questioned the accuracy of the thermostats in each of the rooms, suggesting that perhaps these are incorrect thus explaining the discrepancies between the two sets of data, Bradley and Janine insisted these have been accurately and specifically calibrated to give off a proper reading.  When we asked why they don’t call the company that sold them the computer system to solve the problem, they laughed and explained the difficulty in going about a task that seems so outwardly simple.  Apparently from the time a “logger” from the Social History Center calls the people of Plant Visor Pro to the time they receive a response is an average of 2 weeks.  Once they receive a response, it takes another few days for this company to send a contractor over.  Clearly disappointed and distraught at this point in the conversation, Janine then explained the frequency of the contractor, upon hearing about the problem, merely shrugging his or her shoulders, and exiting the center with a simple, “Sorry, I’m not trained in these matters.”  And so re-begins the multiple weeklong process of voicing a complaint, and procuring another contractor – this one who is hopefully “trained in these matters” – to come to the Social History Center in an attempt to solve the problem.

However, for as monumental of a threat unexpected fluctuations in the climate poses to the conditions of the nearly 500,000 archival objects housed on the 8 floors of the Social History Center, the 3 conservators responsible for protecting them have voiced their concern that there is simply much more to worry about that demands precedence over the broken computer system.  Unpacking the boxes that, two years later, are still untouched in darkened and dusty corners of the collection stores, for instance.

In the words of Fatima, “We walk into work each morning, and ask ourselves ‘Which fire are we going to extinguish today?’  Today, we unpack. Maybe tomorrow we’ll have time to fix the climate situation.”

By tomorrow, of course, she really means weeks, if not months, down the road.

Unfortunately, in this situation, tomorrow is not only a day away.


One thought on “Stormy weather.

  1. It is incredible to think of how much work people are handling, and with such optimism and perseverance. I often get so quickly frustrated by a broken copy machine or a two-day delay in having some equipment serviced, and yet that is nothing compared to the challenges some of these museums face. Challenges that are beyond anyone’s control. Everything is so layered and interconnected that there doesn’t seem to be a simple answer. It reminds me of the conversations we had about Kliptown and how the simple solutions we come up with are so often fraught. Complicated stuff! SO happy to hear you’re able to lend a hand to tend to at least a couple of those fires.

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