Leaks from an aging state building means many of the state’s priceless historic artifacts are being draped in plastic with buckets on standby.
The collection of artifacts, ranging from paintings to historic tools, are being stored in the basement of the James K. Polk Building.
Only 2% of the state’s historic artifacts are stored or are on display at the new Tennessee State Museum; a vast majority are stored in the Polk building.
Peter Heinbach, director of special projects for the state Department of General Services, said the state plans to move all the artifacts in two years to a specially-prepared warehouse.
That means for now the pipes are patched when they leak and many of the historic items are being kept up under plastic wraps with buckets ready to be deployed.
“Are you just putting band aids on the problem?” asked the News4 I-Team.
“Pretty much. It's a stop gap measure until we can get out of that building,” Heinbach said.
A new state audit revealed the cast-iron pipes in the aging building have leaked since 2015.
“For years that has been a problem. Why is it taking so long to get this fixed?” asked the I-Team.
“Boy that's a hard question to answer. The Polk building as a whole is difficult to plan and figure out what to do with it,” said Heinbach.
The audit by the Tennessee Comptroller of the Treasury revealed that there were also eight leaks at the new, $160 million state museum building between October 2018 to February 2019.
One of the leaks was in an exhibition area, but not artifacts were damaged.
Because the building is new, it was under warranty for a year and the room is under warranty for 30 years.
Ashley Howell, executive director of the Tennessee State Museum, said there is no value that can be placed on what these buildings store.
“So much of what we have is priceless. It can't be replaced,” Howell said.
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