On the evening of Monday, January 2, serious storms with high wind hit the Albany, Georgia, area, leaving many households and businesses without power. Governor Nathan Deal declared Dougherty County and surrounding counties a disaster area on Thursday, January 5, and both the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency officials and local Emergency Management Agencies continue to work to assess the full extent of the damages and to repair them. Due to this widespread severe weather system, the Albany Museum of Arts building sustained severe damage and is closed to the public until further notice.
High winds removed sections of the roof from the building, allowing rain into offices, galleries and vaults on the second floor. The fact that it was open to the elements meant several inches of water on both the second and first floors, and the loss of power resulted in a lack of humidity controls. Museum director Paula Williams was on the scene early Tuesday morning despite many roads being impassable and having no power and some damage at her own home. She walked through her museum to make a quick assessment and immediately began making phone calls: to her staff, to her Board of Trustees, to her fine arts and building insurance companies, to lenders, to volunteers and to professionals in the field. The response and the offers of help were overwhelming.
AXA ART, the museums fine art insurance company and its representatives responded quickly, getting a conservation team from Chicagos Conservation Center on a plane to Georgia that Tuesday night. Since then, the conservationists have been assessing damage to works of art in the museums collection and some that were on loan to exhibitions there. It will be some time before the extent of the damage and the time and cost to repair it are known.
A similar process is occurring with representatives of the insurance company that covers the building, although so far it seems that it can be repaired. Objects in the collection that did not need conservation were on their way to off-site fine-art storage on Friday. Contractors have been hard at work adding a temporary fix to the roof, but that part of the building will need major work. Some parts of the building, including the Jane and Harry Willson Auditorium, on the first floor, remained secure and held art moved by staff and volunteers until professional art-handlers could make their way to Albany. Generators to supply electricity and 24-hour security are in place until they are no longer needed. Work is underway to preserve not only the art in the museums collection but also the many documents associated with it, which were stored in the second-floor offices that were most affected by the damage to the roof.
Countless individuals, organizations, institutions and more have offered their support, which museum staff members greatly appreciate. They are waiting for assessments to be completed before they can work out a full plan of how to proceed and what their needs will be, but they will be considerable. The museum does not have time at the moment to respond to all who have pledged assistance, but Williams says she is are very thankful for the community, statewide and regional response. If you would like to keep up with the Albany Museum of Art's needs going forward, please sign up for its newsletter at http://bit.ly/albany-newsletter