What about inside? Using Helium gas in large quantities inside is not possible as it can pose Health and Safety risks- if released it can act as an asphyxiant in an enclosed space. The next question is therefore - can we fill it with compressed air? We asked Imagine Inflatables, they confirmed that it can indeed be filled with air and suspended. The air will permeate slowly through the PVC (like helium), so it will need to be topped up on a regular basis. Given its size we need to investigate options for inflation (fans or pumps) and we will need to monitor and test how often it needs topping up. The Blimp has only one chamber for air and is filled from one area, a ‘sock’ in the back bum area. We will need to investigate what pressure it needs, and be careful not to overfill it as that might put undue pressure on the PVC fabric and lead to damage.
Inflating the Blimp is likely to create a flow of air through the PVC material (inside to outside). The inflated Blimp will also be on open display in the galleries which are served by an air conditioning system that actively circulates the air. Increased air flow will encourage plasticiser loss and ultimately hasten deterioration of the material. Heat is also a factor in the deterioration of the PVC and display conditions are likely to be warmer on gallery than the museum’s collection stores. Because hot air rises and the ducting and outlets for the heating system are positioned high up, Trump’s head, which is 6m above the floor, is likely to be quite a lot hotter than his feet. Light levels are also a consideration, and this will inevitably cause some change to the material. A decision about how long to inflate and display the Blimp for will therefore need to be a careful balance of access and long-term preservation.
Staff will need training in inflating and deflating the Trump Baby. Companies experienced in launching blimps, like Imagine Inflatables, can give us training in how to inflate and deflate it safely. It is a complex operation to inflate the Trump Blimp, whether inside or outside, with helium or air, and that is something we, as Museum of London conservators, have not had any experience with. The only inflated objects on display in our Museum are the tyres of cars and bikes. We pump these up on a regular basis, as the air permeates through the rubber tubes.
We will need to secure the Baby up or down, it has integrated tethering points on the front and back shoulder blades, around the diaper, and at the top of the head. To prevent stretching and deformation we will need to use all the tethering points, to spread the weight evenly, whether we are tying it down or suspending it from above.