The University has confirmed that Nicholson Museum artefacts escaped water damage after nearby fire sprinklers were triggered last night.
Along with an accompanying fire alarm, the sprinklers were activated during the SRC’s Repselect meeting, an annual stupol event. The meeting was this year held in the Quad Refectory Room, adjacent to the Nicholson Museum’s storage rooms.
The flooding began around 8.15 last night, and spread from a hallway opposite the Refectory Room’s entrance. It is understood Nicholson Museum staff were on the scene soon after to protect artefacts. It is unclear what steps were taken to secure the collection: the University’s spokesperson would only confirm that “due to the intervention of the Museum’s team who worked until midnight, there was no damage to the collection.”
Work to ensure the artefacts’ safety is continuing today. According to the University spokesperson, staff are “dehumidifying the affected spaces.”
The Nicholson Museum holds the largest collection of classical antiquities in the Southern Hemisphere. It also conducts an extensive school outreach programme. The University confirmed that school visits scheduled for today had been disrupted by last night’s events.
The University has launched an investigation into the activation of the fire alarm and sprinklers. According to the spokesperson, the investigation has so far found that “a sprinkler head was set off”. Reports last night indicated sprinklers were emitting a torrent of water, rather than their normal controlled spray.
The University has confirmed it is reviewing CCTV camera footage, alongside site inspection. There is no clear evidence at this stage that the sprinklers were deliberately triggered. However, the spokesperson told Honi that “if evidence of wilful property damage is found the matter will be escalated to University management”.
The investigation is ongoing.
SRC President Imogen Grant said she was “relieved” that there was no damage to Nicholson Museum artefacts.
“The SRC is assisting the University with their enquiries and we are also eager to get the bottom of it,” she said.
Repselect has a reputation for being the most heated event of the stupol calendar and, each year, attempts to disrupt the meeting are common. In previous years, these attempts have involved property damage. In 2015, fuse boxes were tampered with, plunging the meeting into darkness to stall proceedings.
Last night’s meeting was cancelled after the flooding, and will be rescheduled to sometime in late November, most likely during the second week of exams.