December Fire’s Damage Still Lingers for SAM Museum

 

Harry & Bess Covered in PCBs

The December 13th fire at Hollywood’s Washington Mutual Bank spewed smoke and burning toxic PCB residue across tellers’ equipment, counters, and unfortunately throughout the bank’s most important tenants; the Society of American Magicians’ Hall of Fame and Magic Museum and the separate Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters Museum. Both attractions were housed in the bank’s basement.

Today’s Los Angeles Times reviews the fire’s aftermath.

“Toxic materials have contaminated exhibits and equipment that had been used by illusionists such as Harry Blackstone Sr. and Harry Houdini and collected over the last century by the magicians’ group.”

Bank officials are unable to clean the toxic waste from the scene until both museums remove their exhibits. The museums, on the other hand, can’t move their props until they are decontaminated. Unfortunately, decontamination will run about a 500,000. That’s a lot of cash and neither organization has it on hand.

“John Engman, president of the magicians’ local hall, said his society’s 8,000 members can only wish that they had a magic potion for that job. People are heartbroken about this. Members have been meeting every Wednesday night for 34 years building the stages and theaters for magic performances and museum rooms.”

“We have displays using mannequins to show the development and history of magic back to 2500 BC. We have memorabilia from World War II USO magic shows, one-of-a-kind items like 1912 nightclub tricks ? thimbles and cards. We have the minutes from the society’s founding in 1902 ? we don’t know what condition they’re in from the PCBs.”

One of the more significant losses is a collection of Houdini handcuffs collected from challenge escapes.

Washington Mutual officials blamed an underground electrical transformer owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for the contamination. PCBs or as we call them, “polychlorinated biphenyls,” were perfect for electronic transformers but for their incredibly toxic properties. The bank plans to gut and replace their areas but the museum proprietors are stuck.

The magic museum estimates it will cost approximately $220,000 to decontaminate, and then an additional $330,000 to move them. “Things without hard surfaces ? the theater’s upholstered seating and the various display areas’ curtains ? would have to be thrown away. So would the hand-built stages and display rooms. The magic museum operates on a budget of about $3,500 a year.”

One way or other goods have to go. The bank officials told the LA Times, “the museums would have to pack up and go because the bank was eager to regain use of the building.? Leaving the property in place is not an option ? a building is not decontaminated unless all exposed areas and contents are cleaned.'”

 

Harry & Bess Covered in PCBs

The December 13th fire at Hollywood’s Washington Mutual Bank spewed smoke and burning toxic PCB residue across tellers’ equipment, counters, and unfortunately throughout the bank’s most important tenants; the Society of American Magicians’ Hall of Fame and Magic Museum and the separate Pacific Pioneer Broadcasters Museum. Both attractions were housed in the bank’s basement.

Today’s Los Angeles Times reviews the fire’s aftermath.

“Toxic materials have contaminated exhibits and equipment that had been used by illusionists such as Harry Blackstone Sr. and Harry Houdini and collected over the last century by the magicians’ group.”

Bank officials are unable to clean the toxic waste from the scene until both museums remove their exhibits. The museums, on the other hand, can’t move their props until they are decontaminated. Unfortunately, decontamination will run about a 500,000. That’s a lot of cash and neither organization has it on hand.

“John Engman, president of the magicians’ local hall, said his society’s 8,000 members can only wish that they had a magic potion for that job. People are heartbroken about this. Members have been meeting every Wednesday night for 34 years building the stages and theaters for magic performances and museum rooms.”

“We have displays using mannequins to show the development and history of magic back to 2500 BC. We have memorabilia from World War II USO magic shows, one-of-a-kind items like 1912 nightclub tricks ? thimbles and cards. We have the minutes from the society’s founding in 1902 ? we don’t know what condition they’re in from the PCBs.”

One of the more significant losses is a collection of Houdini handcuffs collected from challenge escapes.

Washington Mutual officials blamed an underground electrical transformer owned by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power for the contamination. PCBs or as we call them, “polychlorinated biphenyls,” were perfect for electronic transformers but for their incredibly toxic properties. The bank plans to gut and replace their areas but the museum proprietors are stuck.

The magic museum estimates it will cost approximately $220,000 to decontaminate, and then an additional $330,000 to move them. “Things without hard surfaces ? the theater’s upholstered seating and the various display areas’ curtains ? would have to be thrown away. So would the hand-built stages and display rooms. The magic museum operates on a budget of about $3,500 a year.”

One way or other goods have to go. The bank officials told the LA Times, “the museums would have to pack up and go because the bank was eager to regain use of the building.? Leaving the property in place is not an option ? a building is not decontaminated unless all exposed areas and contents are cleaned.'”

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