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Vandals target National Packard Museum, put collections at risk

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Photo courtesy National Packard Museum.

While the collections and the archives at the National Packard Museum in Warren, Ohio, suffered no damage from a pair of related vandalism incidents at the museum over the weekend, the destruction of the museum’s HVAC units did put them at risk of extensive damage.

“It was pretty bold” of the vandals, said Mary Ann Porinchak, the museum’s executive director. “They attacked something that’s the pride and joy of Warren.”

Before moving to Detroit, Packard built its first cars in Warren. Founded in 1991, the National Packard Museum focuses on the history of the Packard family and Packard Electric as well as the history of Packard Motor Car Co.

The first incident occurred around 4:30 Sunday morning after the vandals tore out a section of privacy fence to access the HVAC units just outside the museum’s vault, a brick building where museum staff keeps any non-automotive items not on display in the museum’s galleries. By removing the condensers, compressors, and copper piping from two of the three HVAC units, the vandals tripped a fire alarm.

Though the museum staff put the section of privacy fence back up and braced it, the vandals returned Sunday evening to pilfer the third HVAC unit. Porinchak said that was unnerving because museum staff was in the museum at the time for an event.

“It literally looks like debris from a tornado back there,” she said.

In an article in the Warren Tribune Chronicle, Porinchak estimated the damage at $26,000 total. However, if the museum isn’t able to replace the three units before winter sets in, Polinchak said, “then we’re in a pickle.”

The three HVAC units typically keep the museum’s galleries and vault at a constant 71 degrees and maintain relative humidity in accordance with the best practices of the American Alliance of Museums. Until the museum can replace the units, Porinchak said that staff have placed a small heater in the vault.

“We have no timeline for getting it all fixed, but everybody is working quickly because they understand the critical nature of the situation,” she said.

No arrests have been made in the vandalism incidents – which also hit three doctor’s offices and other businesses – but Porinchak said she’s reviewing security camera footage.

To prevent future attacks, Porinchak said she plans to replace the privacy fence with chain-link fence and to cage up the HVAC units.