On May 10th, the building formerly known as the Mid-Continent Life building, now the Oklahoma Hall of Fame and Gaylord-Pickens Museum, turns 94 years old, a year older than our organization. A fixture on the National Registry of Historic Places nestled between Midtown and historic Heritage Hills, we have been open since 2007. You can learn more about the homes of the Oklahoma Hall of Fame over the years here. We are so proud of this beautiful building and there is a lot of activity happening, even though we don’t have guests right now. I am Bethany Deason, and as Director of Building Operations, I oversee all aspects of maintaining and improving this Oklahoma Landmark!
The week before closing its doors due to COVID-19, everyone at the Museum was gearing up for Spring Thing and welcoming guests. We had secured Victor and his wife, from Jani-King, for what we anticipated to be our most heavily-attended day and had stocked up on extra toilet paper and hand towels. This year I already was scrambling to secure extra hand sanitizer and dispensers. Also that week, the operations team worked on routine maintenance of the waterfall glass—cleaning up the system and getting the waterfalls flowing again. I was a little anxious about the spring bulbs we planted last fall, they were showing promise and I hoped they would be in full bloom the following week.
Closing the Museum and cancelling Spring Thing at the building was the right thing to do. The operations department was no longer gearing up for lots of visitor, we were preparing to shut the doors. We reprogrammed lights to stay off to save electricity and adjusted the thermostats. Also, I was working to get remote access set up for the staff. I worked the next week with our technology partner, 501 Tech, to get software installed for all the staff. Then, I started going through my list of projects and maintenance items to determine which things could wait. Since shutting down, we fulfilled the work already approved and I am pleased to report the chiller compressor and cooling tower motor are installed and working. Spring rains have brought some roof leaks and wall limestone leaks. We have opened up the ceiling to let things dry out and are considering the best course of action for repair. Because, on the whole, the Oklahoma Hall of Fame is able to stay up to date with maintenance, the Gaylord-Pickens Museum is in good shape.
I am very fortunate to have some great partners here at Gaylord-Pickens Museum. Turf Appeal continues to keep our lawn mowed and clean. Jani-King continues to come regularly, but with a focus on sanitizing and deep cleanings that include our catering kitchens, scrubbing our marble floors, and extensive glass washing. Oklahoma Chiller helps with the mechanical systems in the basement. We had some projects scheduled with them prior to the shutdown which they executed as promised and continue to provide maintenance as needed. And Water Quality Control, our water chemical consultant, continues to help ensure the chemical composition of the water in our mechanical systems remains stable.
In addition to our great contractors, Jeff Ledel, Assistant Manager of Facilities and Whittney Allen, Assistant Manager of Museum Education have continued to come to the Museum daily. Jeff maintains the building, its systems, and the grounds. Whittney, who usually schedules field trip, is leading our Museum Associates in creating online content. Since the shutdown, they have become our building stewards. Jeff has come to the Museum every day, 7 days a week, to ensure it is secure and everything is running smoothly. Whittney helps with building checks and does the daily business of checking on artifacts and receives the mail and other deliveries, in addition to her role in the Museum Experience Department.
Both Jeff and Whittney have found this time to be ideal for some projects that wouldn’t get done in the same way if the Museum was open. Last week, Whittney cleaned out a storage closet, filling the gift shop with various holiday decorations that she uses throughout the year, to allow the rearranging of shelving to provide for better organization.
On Jeff and my projects list was installing a picture hanging track system to the 3rd floor halls. Up until March, we were planning a phased approach to ensure as little disruption to Museum guests as possible. With the shutdown, Jeff is able to install the system to the entire floor at the same time. From his perspective, it is a luxury to be able to leave tools and supplies out from day to day. Another unexpected luxury is to devote the kind of time he prefers to ensure a quality job.
Finally, building steward Erick LeMaster is the newest hire. He was brought on, part-time, to do Special Event set-up, tear-down, and clean-up. During the holidays he headed up our effort to clean ALL the event chairs on the 4th floor. We have more than 500 chairs, it was quite an effort shared by Museum Associates. Because of the shutdown, we are pleased to be able to keep him on and he is helping with facility projects. Currently Erick is sanding and painting our hand towel dispensers on the upper floors.
For now our doors are closed and the Museum is empty of guests, but it will be ready to re-open as soon as the time is right. These challenging times will continue to evolve and the safety of our staff and guests will remain a top priority. We appreciate and value our role as a cultural community destination and we will continue with the mindset to protect Oklahoma’s most important asset, its people!