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 The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Photo: Richard Dobbins.
The Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth. Photo: Richard Dobbins.

Texas Museums Using Generators to Keep Art, Staff Warm

Museums in Texas, which has been devastated by recent storms and cold that overwhelmed its power grid and left thousands of residents without heat, power, or access to drinkable water, have resorted to emergency measures to conserve their artworks, Artnet News reports. Institutions have also opened their doors to staff who are without the aforementioned amenities.

“We have fifteen engineers who are sleeping at the museum right now because travel is not wise,” said Gary Tinterow, director of the Museum of Fine Arts Houston, which has been largely running on generators since Sunday. The institution has thus far been able to maintain industry-standard temperature (70 degrees Fahrenheit) and humidity (50 percent). “Our emergency preparedness team is well acquainted with disaster,” Tinterow said, referring to the institution’s experience with Hurricane Harvey, which flooded the foundation of the museum’s just-completed building and caused the loss of thousands of dollars’ worth of construction equipment. “We have food, air mattresses, and dog food stocked,” Tinterow said, “so we are prepared to shelter essential staff.”

According to Contemporary Arts Museum Houston director Hesse McGraw, some of the institution’s board members offered up vacation houses and even their own homes to museum staff who were without amenities. “Either [staff] have power or water, but not both,” said McGraw, limning an unfortunately common scenario. “Hopefully both don’t go out at the same time,” he added, noting that staff who do have power have taken in friends or family.

Tinterow expressed the exasperation many Texans are feeling with the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, which is responsible for 90 percent of the state’s power, and which was reported to have spent just forty seconds discussing winter storm preparedness on February 9. “We normally have extreme demand in summer on peak heat days,” he said. “This is the first time in 40 or 50 years we’ve had peak demand in winter because of cold. The failure of the Energy Reliability Council has been how unreliable they are, and how unprepared. There’s been almost no additional capacity, which is a very disturbing wake-up call.”

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