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Pipe burst a setback for Tarentum museum

| Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014, 12:01 a.m.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dispatch
Sean Isaacs, head volunteer at the Allegheny-Kiski Historical Museum, inspects a hole in one of the dozens of flags that were laid out to dry after a water pipe burst in the basement of the museum last week and was discovered Friday. Photo taken on Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014.
Jason Bridge | Valley News Dis
A paper mache mannequin was damaged when water came into contact with it after a water pipe broke in the basement of the Allegheny-Kiski Historical Museum in Tarentum. The damage was discoved Friday. Photo taken Saturday, Jan. 11, 2014.

Fortunately, flags are made to get wet.

But mannequins made of papier-mache and plaster don't respond too well to water.

Officials at the Allegheny-Kiski Valley Historical Society were considering themselves lucky on Saturday that damages from two broken waterlines in the basement of their Tarentum museum were not a lot worse.

“We're very lucky no arti­facts were damaged. All the artifacts were dryable,” Curator Jamie Stoner said. However, “We lost a lot of supplies.”

An electrician working in the building heard the water running on Friday afternoon. The small waterlines went to a sink that is no longer used in a former kitchen in the basement that the society uses for storage.

No one had been in the building since Wednesday, society President Dolly Mistrik said. They'll look at water usage records to get an idea when the leak started.

The damage could have been a lot worse if not for a drain in the cement floor, Mistrik said.

“The drain did its job very well,” Stoner said.

A plumber repaired the pipes.

Society volunteers turned out on Friday to help get artifacts out of the room quickly.

Things that were stored in boxes were protected by their containers, but the special acid-free boxes will have to be replaced at a cost of about $1,000.

Some of that cost, including the additional water, may be covered by the society's insurance, Mistrik said.

The society uses mannequins to display clothing. It doesn't have many, and lost four to water damage.

“Once water gets to it, it's done,” Mistrik said.

American flags that were kept in the room, some from the late 1800s, were spread out to dry.

The museum was open on Saturday despite all exhibits being closed. Mistrik said they didn't want visitors to be greeted by a “closed” sign on the door. Anyone who showed up would be given a free pass to come back, she said.

The museum's upstairs displays are expected to be open by Wednesday, but the basement won't be open until Jan. 18.

The museum's regular hours are 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesdays and Saturdays, and by appointment.

Brian C. Rittmeyer is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-226-4701 or brittmeyer@tribweb.com.

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