On June 24, 2010, an EF-1 tornado struck the Barnum Museum. Colossal winds slammed into the historic structure compromising structural integrity of the building, contaminating the environmental and mechanical systems, shattering windows, and exposing collections to a vicious burst of glass, moisture, and debris. Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy followed, causing additional damage in 2011 and 2012. The Museum has since been engaged in a full-scale conservation effort to recover and preserve thousands of artifacts, and to stabilize and restore the building to its original, majestic state.
Today, operations and public programming have been curtailed to manage the ongoing disaster mitigation and recovery. After an initial cleanup and relocation of the artifacts (with support from many colleagues in the Connecticut cultural community), hundreds of objects have been treated for damage. Once the collection was finally safe and documented, building assessment and stabilization began. To date, steel girders and columns have been installed to prevent further deflection, and reconstruction of the east wall has been accomplished. The massive, iconic Museum dome is currently undergoing stabilization.
The Barnum Museum has made incredible strides in its recovery, including:
- Conducting a full qualitative and quantitative impact study and museum assessment in 2013, with pre-concept work on the Museum’s re-envisioning completed the following year
- Saving and relocation over 25,000 artifacts
- Temporarily stabilizing the historic dome
- Completing the condition assessment and forensic reports on the historic building
- Completing Phase I Stabilization construction work in 2015
- Undergoing Phase II Restoration construction work in 2017
- Securing critical operational functions
The Museum has leveraged community support amounting to more than $968,000 in direct investment in historic restoration activity with the help of State of Connecticut grant funding, including the CT Commission on Culture and Tourism, the CT Trust for Historic Preservation, Connecticut Humanities Council, and the City of Bridgeport.
The Barnum Museum has undertaken a massive restoration and re-envisioning effort to restore the Museum back to full operational capacity. It is currently developing plans to bring to life the story of P.T. Barnum and his impact on Connecticut and American history, making thousands of artifacts in the collections accessible to the public and broadening educational programming for audiences of all ages.