Flooded aisle at a New Mexico Museum of Indian Arts and Culture storage facility. Courtesy: Museum of Indian Arts and Culture/Laboratory of Anthropology, Department of Cultural Affairs. Photo: Anita McNeece.
The Archaeological Research Collections (ARC) of the New Mexico Museum of Indian Arts and Culture is the largest assemblage of archaeological materials in New Mexico, totaling 5 million to 10 million artifacts and samples stored in 39,000 containers occupying 15,000 cubic feet. The Museum holds examples of Southwest Native American material culture extending from the Paleo-Indian Clovis Period of approximately 9,500 BC through the twentieth century.
In March 2004, the Archaeological Research Collections’ downtown storage facility in Santa Fe was flooded by a hot water pipe that broke and flowed unchecked for almost 24 hours. Everything stored on the lowest shelves, approximately 1,400 boxes of collections, was immersed in water. The museum had an emergency plan that included collections, but it did not extend to collections stored off-site. Fortunately, the existing plan helped staff to mobilize quickly, and the museum has now virtually completed the extensive, $180,000 recovery process with minimal permanent damage to the collections.