Storm Makes History -- and Crushes It

Building full of Smithsonian artifacts collapses under snow

By Arlene Borenstein
|  Wednesday, Feb 10, 2010  |  Updated 2:59 PM EDT
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Storm Makes History -- and Crushes It

Battalion Chief Paul Gomez, Prince George’s County Fire/EMS

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A warehouse containing stored artifacts for the Smithsonian collapsed in Maryland as a result of the region's second blizzard of 2010.

Part of the roof and a wall of the Smithsonian Institute's Museum Support Center Library in Suitland are so badly damaged, many historic items from the National Air and Space Museum have been exposed to the treacherous weather, according to Prince George's County Fire Department spokesman Mark Bradley.

The collapse was discovered early Wednesday morning at the metal building, part of the Garber Preservation, Restoration and Storage Facility in Suitland.

It houses about 1,500 artifacts, including aircraft and spacecraft parts as well as about 800 pieces of aviation and space-themed artwork.

A collection of historic spacesuits from Apollo moonwalks, kept in a building nearby, was not affected.

Emergency crews did turn off the library's power and natural gas service after determining the building is unstable.

Museum officials, however, remained optimistic.

"Right now, the building is still standing,'' said museum spokeswoman Claire Brown, adding that shelving units inside were supporting the structure.  "We're confident the portion of the collection that's in there is OK.''

The building that collapsed was already in the works to be demolished, and museum officials say the artifacts had already been slated to be moved to another facility in Virginia.

"At this point, we're not worried about the falling temperatures or any other risks associated with the power being cut to the collection,'' Brown said.

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