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Radon, mould keep museum doors shuttered

The Town of Blue Mountains Public Library (BMPL) and Museum staff have been working to make the necessary repairs to the historic Craigleith Heritage Depot in order to reopen its doors to the public.

The Town of Blue Mountains Public Library (BMPL) and Museum staff have been working to make the necessary repairs to the historic Craigleith Heritage Depot in order to reopen its doors to the public.

The 139-year-old Depot has been closed since the fall. 

“It is not just a matter of opening the building. We have removed a lot of the storage collection from the basement to the main floor of the building and we have removed all of the library books so that we didn’t have too much weight on the floor,” explains curator of the Craigleith Heritage Depot, Andrea Wilson.

“It is a lot of behind the scenes work. People will often see us in the building and think that we are going to open soon, but, unfortunately, we are still in the process right now," Wilson added. 

Problems at the depot began in September when museum staff reported having issues with poor air quality. Air quality testing was conducted to reveal that the building had high levels of mould and radon.

“We found out that we had some higher levels of mould, which is pretty standard with archives and museums,” says Sabrina Saunders, CEO of the BMPL. “But, at the same time, we found out that there were high levels of radon. At that point, the museum was closed on Oct. 24, when the radon report came back.”

Since then, the town and library/museum staff have been working together on a committee to resolve the issue.

“Town staff have been working very closely with our staff. While we have the expertise on the museum end, they have the facility,” Saunders says. “One cannot do it without the other. We meet every two weeks to see what needs to happen.”

Tim Hendry, manager of communications and economic development for the TBM says the radon extraction at the depot was completed in late February.

“I can confirm that the radon remediation was completed in February by a contractor certified by the Canadian National Radon Protection Program. The contractor is also a member of the Canadian Association of Radon Scientists and Technicians.”

Since the closure depot staff have maintained as much service delivery as possible and have been working out of the L.E. Shore Library branch in Thornbury.

“We are trying our best. We are still doing research requests out of the library, we are still working with our groups and doing our programs and outreach,” says Wilson. “But it is a real challenge because at the same time the staff are working in the [depot] building preparing the basement for remediation.”

Wilson says, since the radon was removed, museum staff have been working in the depot with personal protective equipment in order to clean the collection and restore the building to a place where it is suitable for public access.

“It will be a huge amount of work to get us back up and running but once we do that we will be in a much better place as a museum,” Wilson says. “It will certainly improve our facility immensely and improve our ability to function and that is wonderful.”

BMPL and museum staff are hoping to have the depot open to the public by June, however, the timeline to open the doors is dependent on the town installing a proper HVAC system in the depot.

“[Town] staff will be taking a report on March 24 to the Committee of the Whole meeting,” says Hendry. “The report will detail the current status of the repairs and outline the next steps, which may include the development of specifications for an HVAC system replacement.” Hendry also notes that an opening date for the depot has not yet been determined.

The BMPL and museum have a Frequently Asked Questions page online where staff have been providing updates on the Craighleith Heritage Depot for the public.

Jennifer Golletz, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, CollingwoodToday.ca