University continues with efforts to restore Torrey Hall after fire


Lauren Schnepf, Assistant News Editor

The fire that ravaged Torrey Hall last month is having lasting effects on the programs and staff members that were housed there.

Following the fire, both the plant biology and animal biology departments have been relocated to Jeffords Hall and Blundell House respectively, according to plant biology professor David Barrington.

Torrey Hall is the home of the Thompson Natural History Collection, the Pringle Herbarium and the Churchill Library.

The Pringle Herbarium is home to thousands of plant specimens from around the world, Barrington said. All specimens, housed in 180 cabinets, have been relocated to Jeffords since the fire.

The department was in the process of digitizing the entire collection of specimens when the fire occurred.

The fire slowed down this process significantly, said senior Gabriel Martin, one of the students who has been working on digitizing the data.

The department is calling on the public for help, inviting them to a data blitz event in the Morrill Hall computer lab. The event will be held from 10:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Oct. 21 and 22, where everyone from the community will be welcome to view and help catalog specimens, according to Martin.

However, the fire was not all bad news for the department, Barrington said. Due to the water damage from the fire hoses, the entire interior of Torrey has been stripped down, leaving the potential for a redesign.

The process of moving all the specimens from Torrey Hall to Jeffords was expensive, but will be covered by insurance according to Barrington.

The move took about four days, but the UVM physical plant department that assisted in the move was incredibly helpful, Barrington said.

During the incident, firefighters were instructed to cover and protect the cabinets containing these artifacts, according to an Aug. 3 Burlington Fire Department press release.

The natural sciences library contained in Torrey Hall has also been moved to the basement of Jeffords and is contained almost entirely in boxes.

“There are a lot of cool resources buried away that we don’t have access to right now,” Barrington said.

While Torrey Hall had two classrooms before the fire, there have not been classes taught there in several years, Barrington said.

Before the fire broke out, the plant biology department hosted UVM students and outreach classes where students and community members could view and learn about the specimens.

Hosting these programs has become much more challenging due to limited space, but the department is still open to hosting outreach programs and hopes the community will continue to show interest, Barrington said.

The fire has also brought a lot of visibility to the departments within it, Martin said.