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Our Expansion and Renovation Update Blog


April 29, 2013

Cutting Through the Old, Making Way for the New

On a rainy, muddy Monday, sparks were flying inside. Now that one of our big old HVAC units is disconnected, it's time to cut it out and fly it out via crane from our rooftop and drop it off to a scrap dealer.

At lower right, a scene from another place where sparks were flying. Now that the jackhammers have chipped out holes in the concrete floors for the new elevator shaft, it's time to cut out the steel bars that reinforced the concrete. Click any image to enlarge.

April 29, 2013

Our Gardens Are in Bloom. Well, Sort Of...

Our gardens are construction zones these days, but we have some stored plants waiting patiently for this time next year. You can find these blooms tucked behind shipping containers in a materials staging lot.

April 26, 2013

By the End of the Weekend, We'll Have Skylights in Two New Galleries

Fitting to have skylights installed on a brilliant, sunny day. The plan was to erect all the metal frames by Friday and then spend the weekend dropping in the glass. Once the two new galleries are weather-tight, work can begin on the interior walls, which are just bare block right now. Click any image to enlarge.

UPDATE: Monday, April 29—It's mission accomplished as all the glass is in. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean the rest of the roof is weather-tight, as you can see in the skylights reflected in the puddles.

April 26, 2013

In Our Galleries, a Modernist Work of Primary Colors and Geometric Patterns.
Or a Stack of Construction Materials

All interior pictures this time, but there's plenty going on outside. There's a lot of block going up, from the parapets on down, but the truly remarkable thing is how little time it takes for mud to turn to dust.

  • Below left, work continues on cutting a new elevator shaft through three steel-reinforced concrete floors. Working in this small space, as many as four jackhammers have been rattling at the same time. The noise is just nuts.
  • Below middle, the contractor braintrust huddles at their new lampstand. They moved because a machine was devouring the old glue-messed subfloors.
  • Below right, the floor-eater is blurred by a slow shutter. When scraping up piles such as these, it's not that fast. The engine runs on bottled gas, so fumes were no factor. Right now what's in the air is dust. There's a lot of work going on.

April 25, 2013

A Behind-the-Scenes Update on the Art

Not all of our art is sitting quietly in storage. Our conservation lab is quite busy working on long-unseen items that will be newly restored and displayed when we reopen.

Shown below, Gwen is holding the finial of a 1791 candelabra currently undergoing restoration. The first thing she had to do before taking it all apart was to make sure she had it all mapped out so she could put it back together. We'll check back with her next week as her work progresses, but here's an example of the level of care involved. After the individual crystals were washed in soap and water, and then double rinsed, they were rinsed once again in deionized water. That was a way to clean off mineral deposits that could be left behind by the tap water.

April 23, 2013

The Graffiti Says It All

From a valuable piece of equipment that was protecting precious art to completely disconnected. It's another step in our drive to replace outdated HVAC equipment with new, energy-efficient units. For all the years it served us, it deserved a proper tombstone.

April 23, 2013

Some Perspective for Your Next Bad Day at Work—Did You Have
Four Jackhammers Blasting Away on the Other Side of Your Office Wall?

Inside, it's going to be a loud for a few days as workers continue to cut in a new elevator and rip out the old one.

Not everything is as dramatic as a jackhammer quartet. Seems like there is wiring going on everywhere, and the HVAC guys are rolling. The sheet metal they are handling is razor-sharp, and this guy really has to trust his partner when handling the joinery. In terms of readying the art, every sheet of paper in this stack represents a glass object to be moved, and that's just one of many stacks.

Outside, the rest of the scaffolding is going up on the north addition. On the south side, here's the worker-eyes view from up on the scaffolding.

April 18, 2013

If Art Museums Should Show Things You've Never Seen Before, Does This Count?

Work continues on our new elevator, with the old shaft being demolished and the new one being cut through existing floors. Today's efforts provided an extremely rare perspective of a jackhammer in use—from below. It was a tough angle for a picture—shooting from behind the safety barricade while staying out of the way of the water being sprayed to minimize the dust—but it gives us another reason to thank all the KBS guys who are working so hard on our behalf. They even made sure the photographer was wearing his required earplugs. Click image to enlarge.

April 16, 2013

In One Example, an Illustration of Why This Project Will Seem to Take Forever

Today we offer a simple case—a centuries-old tapestry that had to be put back in storage after a routine analysis—as an illustration of the incredible level of detail involved in protecting our works of art.

We start with the tube upon which the age-old threads were rolled. The tube is so strong it is normally used for poured-concrete forms in construction projects. The tube was wrapped in Dartek, a nylon film similar to cellophane. The tapestry was protected by a layer of felt padding and a layer of unbuffered (acid-free) tissue paper before being rolled. After rolling, it was covered in layers of unbleached muslin which were tied in a twill tape. The final step was covering everything in Tyvek, the same vapor-barrier material used in building houses.

As shown below, it was a process that took six people—all with gloves and without shoes. We could mention how it was carefully vacuumed before being readied for rolled storage, we could talk about the special tape used towards the end, and we could mention the final weight being several hundred pounds. But here's our point for the day. Consider this level of care, multiply by it, oh, 5,000 objects, and that's the task before us as we start reinstalling our galleries when construction is finished six months from now. As always, click any image to enlarge.

April 16, 2013

In Our Main Building, Work is in Progress From Top to Bottom

With most large-scale demolition complete, when you hear a loud noise nowadays, it's usually for something specific. In this case, a new doorway was marked with a laser and cut with a powerful saw. Shown below, in the mechanical towers at the very top of our building, new air-handling equipment is steadily going into place. When you see plastic, it's because the units must be kept free of dust until the moment of installation. Click any image to enlarge.

April 15, 2013

The Engineer Can Say She Had a Drawing on Display at an Art Museum

As work continued on demolishing one elevator shaft and creating a new one, an engineer used a ground-penetrating radar to doublecheck what was underneath the floor area in question. Her diagram is shown above. While we're on the theme of mistakes not being an option, note this sign and this sign on crates and boxes being stored in the same room.

Outside, a key step in the construction process, pouring the concrete for the second-story floor on the north addition, went off without a hitch. Made it easy for the crew to hang up their hard hats and head off for lunch.

April 10, 2013

While The Limestone Cladding is Cut in Indiana, Work Rolls On Here

Shown above, in a factory in Indiana, a giant limestone jigsaw puzzle is being cut and shaped. The next time you see this piece of stone, it'll be part of our new exterior, and we thank one of our subcontractors, Chris Henry, for the photo. The limestone cladding should start arriving on site in about six weeks.

Elsewhere on the project, it's been a solid week of new air-handling equipment being airlifted by crane to its new home in our rooftop towers, as shown at lower left. Below middle, big limestock blocks were removed in the process of demolishing our elevator shaft, and they were so heavy they had to be jackhammered into smaller pieces for removal. At lower right, a power chisel is being used to clean up concrete subfloors. In the metal and concrete cavern that will be our contemporary and modern galleries, it's as loud as it effective. Click any image to enlarge.


April 9, 2013

Using an Elevator Shaft to Demolish an Elevator Shaft

The most commonly used form of mass transit in the world is—surprise—the elevator. We're in them all the time but hardly ever stop to think about what's above us, below us or around us while we're in the lift.

We're moving our elevator to improve pedestrian flow through the galleries, which means we have to tear out the old one. Now that the equipment has been removed above and below, it's time rip out the walls of the shaft itself. When removing the concrete-block shaft to create space for a new straight-shot hallway, the easiest way to clear the rubble is to just drop it down the shaft and shovel it out from the bottom. It's a lot of work to move something the width of a hallway, but here's how we know it'll be worth it. When we reopen, no one will even notice.


April 9, 2013

We Didn't Get the First Sheet of New Drywall Going Up, but We Got the Second!

After months of demolition, it was nice to see the first new drywall of the project going up. This work was being done in what will be the expanded glass galleries. Click any image to enlarge.


April 4, 2013

What's Wrong With This Picture? How About What's Right With This Picture

Click to enlarge

In the photo above, note the distinct color differences between sections at top right and lower left. The whiter tones emerged as age-old varnish was carefully removed from a painted surface nearly five centuries old. Click any image to enlarge.

Click to enlarge

Hans Holbein, the Elder
Portrait of a Man

Oil on panel
ca. 1516

A work not seen publicly for decades will be on display when we reopen. Portrait of a Man was in no shape to be shown until it was cleaned and restored, and that's where Gwen Manthey, our NEH Conservation Fellow, comes in.

The fine brushwork and jewel-like colors of Hans Holbein the Elder were yellowed by several layers of deteriorated varnish. There were patches of old, discolored restoration paint on the face, and there was overpaint on the background and the architecture.

Manthey said restoration steps included the re-adhering of loose areas of paint back to the panel, the removal of surface grime with a water-based solution at a specific pH and ionic strength, and the removal of old varnish using solvent solutions specifically tailored to each layer. Over several weeks, the layers of varnish were slowly reduced, and areas of insoluble, unoriginal restoration paint were removed with a tiny scalpel under a microscope.

The fine underdrawing used to model the face, which would have been painted over by the artist, became visible over the centuries as the oil paint aged and became transparent. "We believe," Manthey said, "that the previous restorers considered the appearance of these dark lines disturbing, and mistook them for discolored varnish or dirt, and the face became incredibly abraded over repeated cleanings using solvents that were too harsh for the delicate layers and glazes of oil paint."

The rest of the painting was in fairly good condition, and did not require a lot of reconstructive inpainting. As Manthey explained, inpainting is confined to areas of lost, original paint, as opposed to overpainting, which extends over the artist’s original paint layers.

Using comparative images of other Holbein paintings, and photographs of a surviving sketch of the sitter by the artist, the inpainting process took weeks. While reconstructing lost details in the architecture, it was critical to maintain the translucency and thin surface of the nearly 500 year-old paint surface. In fact, "we allowed some of the underdrawing in the face to remain visible through the flesh tones," Manthey said, because it better matched "the normal aging characteristics of the original oil paint."

Thin coats of synthetic resins (designed to last decades longer than natural resin varnish) separate the inpainted layers from the original surface and helped resaturate the painting. The final varnish that she applied contained UV-inhibitors, and should prevent the latest treatment from deteriorating too quickly.


April 3, 2013

A Less Obvious Type of Construction Noise is the Sound of Thoughts Whirring

Shown above, a common scene these days—experts huddling and planning how our galleries will look when we reopen at this time next year.

A handy tool in all this is a scale-model version of the galleries, shown in the middle of the picture at top and in detail at right, complete with miniature pictures of paintings and sculptures.

Before we closed, if you went up the central staircase in Huber Court and turned right, if you walked the full second-floor gallery circle all the way back to the Large Oval Gallery, you had actually completed a progressive march through history. We can't say every visitor was aware of this orderly flow from Renaissance to Modern Art, but we can say this much. It was not accidental.


April 1, 2013

A Giant Crane, a Roof Door, and a Lot of Hustle and Bustle

The replacement of our air handling equipment continued today with the help of a large crane. At top, that's our security chief watching from the roof.

At lower left, a birds-eye-view of the crane operator peering through his cabin roof. At middle left, a clear view of one of the many HVAC units hoisted to the mechanical tower. Middle right, workers get ready to put an air handler on rollers and move it inside. As shown far right, this particular piece of equipment was a really tight fit.

New equipment coming in through the roof meant a lot of old stuff was coming out the front door. At lower left, braces used in packing new equipment gets pitched in a dumpster. Lower right, that's one of many old fans that made their way to the recycling bins today. Click any image to enlarge.


Earlier entries:

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

October/December 2012

August/September 2012

June/July 2012