Founder and executive director Lewis Bartholomew expects HAMM will be closed for a couple of months, though they have set up a temporary exhibit nearby. Photo by Mike Chouinard

Comox Valley military museum could be closed for a couple of months

HMCS Alberni site suffered water damage during a recent downpour

A recent rainstorm has left its mark on the HMCS Alberni Museum and Memorial (HAMM) in downtown Courtenay.

The downpour during the afternoon of July 10 caused flooding through the museum site, says founder and executive director Lewis Bartholomew, running to a depth of several centimetres across the floor.

“I noticed there was water coming through our library and our World War I room,” he said. “It just kept coming and coming and coming.”

If there’s good news, it was that the artifacts were not affected.

“There was not one piece of our artifacts or our documents that was damaged in the flood water,” he said.

Several volunteers responded to a call-out on social media to help HAMM move items across the walkway to an empty building. While the main museum is closed for now, they can bring visitors to the temporary exhibit and also to the main site to see the Memorial Wall.

The bad news though is the extent of the damage. In the days that followed, they had to pull out all the flooring and will be taking out carpet. So far, only one small section of the wall has been cut away, but the wood shows signs of previous water damage, meaning they might have to do more renovation work to remove the possibility of moulds. Dryers have been running constantly at the site to help air out the space, and by the front door sit piles of the old flooring.

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As it stands, Bartholomew expects the bill to come in at least $10,000, though this could rise easily depending on the amount of damage. On top of this, the museum only had liability insurance but was not insured for contents, meaning it will have to cover the costs of the repairs. There are questions about what might be covered because of the museum’s lease. Most notably, the museum added the laminate flooring, which was not glued down, meaning it still belongs to the museum and could be removed – therefore, not covered. The carpet though was glued to bare concrete and might be covered. Bartholomew says the group has set up a GoFundMe page to take donations.

“The costs are going to go much higher with some of the other discoveries that have just been made,” he said.

The timing only makes matters worse, as this is the time of the year when HAMM sees the most visitors and brings in much of its revenue. The repairs, Bartholomew says, could take a couple of months.

The museum and memorial moved into the current space about three years ago after spending a few years in the Comox Mall. The Alberni Project Society (TAPS) actually began in 1999 doing educational outreach. As far as the museum and memorial, it included a mobile exhibit before they added the year-round museum space in 2013 in Comox, which then moved to downtown Courtenay.

The recent water damage marks the second flooding in the past few years, though the first incident caused less damage.

“It was the same kind of situation, a sudden downpour. That one was not as severe,” Bartholomew said.

At present, Bartholomew said they are trying to identify the exact source of the water. They know it did not directly come in from outside, so a backed-up storm drain is a possibility.

“We now have to wait until the source of this water is found and is remedied,” he said.

To help out, HAMM has set up the donation page at https://www.gofundme.com/f/museum-flood-recovery-fund

(Note: This story has been updated.)



mike.chouinard@comoxvalleyrecord.com

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