Painting, Sculpture, and…Boilers?


The Phillips’s unlikely heroes: our environment stabilizing boilers. Photos courtesy The Phillips Collection, Washington, DC

Beyond the galleries, there are hidden heroes lurking in the outskirts of the Phillips’s building. While perhaps not as beautiful, our behind-the-scenes boilers are just as critical to the Phillips as our works of art. A proud Chief of Security and Operations Dan Datlow describes the role these unlikely champions play during the hottest summers and chilliest winters:

“This is the time of the year when our HVAC equipment is working hard to cool and dehumidify all of our indoor spaces. We are taking large amounts of moisture out of the air to maintain stable environmental conditions in the galleries. This is the opposite of what we do in the wintertime, when the outside air is dry and we have to add large amounts of moisture to the air to maintain our environment.

In the images above, the heavy end plates have been removed to expose the heating tubes where steam is produced. We brush the tubes out annually and then the boiler inspector visits to certify them for license renewal.

I’ve worked with many, many boilers in my career and I’m happy to say these are the cleanest tubes and tube sheets I’ve ever seen. Usually, there is a some level of hard scale in the boilers that is the result of dissolved water solids (minerals) that coat the boiler interior. Our boilers are presently in exactly the same scale-free condition they were on the day we installed them.”

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