Friday, June 10, 2016

30 Days Later

Today marks one month since the event that every museum director fears most – a fire inside the museum. Even now, I’m thankful that no one was hurt, and that our building is 99% in tact. The collections, especially, an extensive collection of vintage printing manuals, leather-bound copies of Harper’s Weekly, and copies of American Printer dating back to the late 1800s, were damaged by smoke and water from the firefighting efforts. Those, along with all of the other items in our permanent collection, which received smoke damage, are safe in off-site storage awaiting assessment and restoration.

Over the past few weeks, I have had to call on reserves of mind, body and spirit that, quite frankly, I didn’t know I had. I come from pretty hearty stock, but this experience has tested me. What has made it easier, though, is having people around the museum, including some awesome staff members, who want nothing more than to see us come back better than ever. I’ll never be able to say thank you enough to the individuals, organizations and companies that have helped us in the last month. One small way that we’re trying show our appreciation is through the ‘Thank You’ page on our web site. I hope to “pay it forward” in whatever way I can sometime in the future.

And life goes on. Summer is our time to begin planning, in earnest, for the next year, including getting our program calendar, marketing plan, fundraising plan and budget worked out and approved by our Board of Directors. We have already been discussing plans for next year’s celebration of the 35th anniversary of our official opening in 1982. Stay tuned for that!

We do still have some immediate concerns. We should be finished soon with the arrangements to move our Summer Book Arts Studio, which begins on June 28, to the University of Houston. Our next TPM Listening Tour public meeting is July 9, at 10 a.m. We don’t have a location for the meeting, yet, but will soon. And, of course, planning for our annual fundraiser, The Gutenberg Dinner, on October 13, has really begun to ramp up.

In the next week, though, museum staff and members of our Board will have discussions about a strange and unexpected opportunity that presents itself after the fire. So, right now, everything is off the walls in the exhibits – all of the prints and newspapers and documents. Books and other paper items have, also, been removed from the display cases. This had to be done so that the collection could be assessed and cleaned properly, but, also, because the entire museum will need to be painted to finish getting the smoke smell out of the building.

With everything down off the walls, it presents an opportunity to ask ourselves if everything has to go back exactly as it was before the fire. It’s definitely not the way I would have wanted the conversation to get started, but we should, nonetheless, have the conversation. For instance, what could we add or remove from the exhibits? Can items on display be positioned in a better way to facilitate learning? Can we make use of the space we have in a better way to make the visitor experience even better?

So, we’ll be asking ourselves these questions and many others, but I would also like to ask our friends and supporters these same questions. What do you think? Is there something you would like to see us do differently as we bring the museum back on line? Leave a comment or email me at

If you would like to support our fire recovery efforts, please go to and click on the red banner at the top of the museum. Any gift is greatly appreciated.


Until next time…