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Our Renovation/Construction Update Blog


Feb. 26, 2013

In the Conservation Lab, Two New Legs and a Chisel Tip

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Our building is closed but our work continues. Take, for instance, repairs on two exquisite bronze sculptures by Italian artist Francesco Bertos. The works date to around 1710, and they had had what's known as "documented losses" when they were acquired after World War II. The task to recreate the missing parts fell to Stephen Marder, consulting conservator.

"The artist's technique in building the piece is what enables us to repair it," Marder said, explaining that the bronze sculptures were cast from many smaller wax molds before their final assembly. Since Bertos reused some of the molds, Marder could look at a missing leg on one piece and find that identical leg intact on the other. He could then measure a perfectly fitting replacement.

When bronze is used in a lost-wax casting system, it shrinks 7 to 8 percent while cooling. To redo the pieces in bronze would require some incredibly precise gradations in scaling up the molds and would require some potentially risky-to-the-object welding. So this, Marder said, "is basically a visual restoration." One lower leg, one ankle and foot, and one chisel tip were molded in plastic, attached and then essentially faux finished to match the patina of the piece. He's almost finished.

"Whatever we are working on, there's the principle of reversibility," Marder said. "We have to be able to undo anything we do. Fifty years from now there may be new techniques or new ways of doing it, so this way we'll have well-documented repairs that are easier to spot."

You can see the incredible detail Bertos put in his work in these high-resolution photographs of Sculpture and The Drama. On the photo of The Drama a missing lower leg is visible. You can click here to see the replacement mold work and you can click here to see the remaining final touch—the coverup of the juncture between old and new. You won't see that crack when it's back on view in 2014.

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Feb. 22, 2013

Wrapping up the Week With Some Highlights

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A busy week here with demolition inside, steel erection on the north side, and shown at bottom, installing the foundation for the outside wall on the south side. What's notable above, with the ceiling being removed, was workers finding a door to nowhere, long since blocked off from the outside. Whenever we see brick, it almost always dates back to original construction in the 30s. We'll close with a couple artsy detail pictures (here and here) and we'll bring you some behind-the-scenes conservation pictures next week. Click any image to enlarge.

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Feb. 19, 2013

Flying Steel in Mary's Garden

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The steel frame for our north addition started going up Tuesday, and as shown above, the first step is lifting in the components with a crane. As shown below left, considering the steel goes in about an inch from the existing wall—less than the width of the cornice at top—considerable skill was involved in making the drop. Below middle, a little finesse, a lot of muscle, or a great big crowbar can get the pre-drilled holes aligned with the cemented bolts. At right, nuts are tightened on the big steel. Welders will follow later and tighten it all up. Click any image to enlarge.

Feb. 15, 2013

Things Come Down, Things Go Up

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Outside, the block walls are finished on the first floor of the south addition. On the north side, workers today removed the wooden forms from the concrete pour for the porch and garden steps. We'll start erecting steel there next week; it got delayed a bit by the weather.

Inside, things are humming (and banging and clanging) as the demolition tears toward completion. At bottom left, the last step in ceiling removal, in what used to be our Ancient Worlds gallery, comes down to muscle and a crow bar. At bottom middle, if you ever stood outside our Cafe and looked inside and thought about a glass of wine and a snack, well, here's how it looks today. The picture at bottom right is a promising sign. Studs are going in, which means walls will be going up, and that's very welcome progress. Click any image to enlarge.

Feb. 8, 2013

A Thorough Drenching Thanks to Winter Storm Nemo

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Here's how to visualize this rain. Think of an orange traffic barrel like you'd see on a highway, then check out the depth of this puddle.

Feb. 7, 2013

The Scaffolding Goes Up—And Will Be Up For Quite Some Time

Counter-clockwise from bottom left, the scaffolding comes off the truck and through the front gate. It seemed that as fast as it was erected, the faster it was put into use. The scaffolding won't be extended higher until the concrete is poured for the second floor, and the floor concrete won't be poured until all the first-floor blocks are up. Later, the scaffolding will be used by crews applying the limestone facade, and workers tell us the old-fashioned stone-cutting will be really interesting. Click any image to enlarge.

Feb. 7, 2013

About The Saw That Was Blasting Through Concrete Blocks

Block-laying on the new addition on the south side of our building intensified Thursday. It was fitting, then, to see the blocks being cut, as shown at right, with a saw made by Stihl. That corporation has been a long-time supporter of this Museum, and now, seeing their tools on our job site, gives us a chance to thank them twice.

Feb. 6, 2013

Through Our Construction, Something Beautiful is Growing

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Feb. 5, 2013

Since We Talk so Often of Our Contractors, Here's a Shout-Out to Our Own Guys

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When an earthquake hit us on Aug. 23, 2011, not a single piece of glass was damaged. It says something about the quality of the construction involved in our display cases, but it also means those cases can be seriously heavy things to take apart and move.

Terry, Mike, and Kevin used two Genie Superlifts for this job, and for those unfamiliar with the equipment, a Superlift can best be described as a Swiss Army knife for winching and hoisting. Not only was the case heavy, the Superlifts aren't exactly dainty, either. Didn't matter. Our team knocked it out in a matter of hours. As always, click any image to enlarge.

Feb. 4, 2013

Two Extremes From Behind the Scenes

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Demolition continues in galleries that used to hold Asian and African art. Here the sledgehammer is flying too fast for the camera to capture. Click any image to enlarge.

Today, dust and demolition swirled around the Diamonstein Education Workshop, one of the rare untouched areas of the first floor. Inside the workshop, shown at right, planning continued for our newly redesigned exhibits.

The Museum world uses the term "interpretation" a lot, and the term is used in the sense of how objects are organized, displayed and discussed. The machinations of exhibition design can be incredibly involved and minutely detailed and we're not even at liberty to discuss specifics. Just be advised that when you stroll through our redesigned exhibits in 2014, the man-hours involved in "interpretation" will be in the tens of thousands.

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The brain trust: directors, consultants, curators and top staff use mockups to discuss the fine points of presentation. Click to enlarge.

Feb. 1, 2013

So What Can You do With Empty Galleries During Construction?
Give Staffers Cans of Spray Paint and Create a Hard-Hats Required Exhibition

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The Museum's one-word mission, done tagger-style. Click any image to enlarge.

We had some real talent on display in our Staff Wall Art Contest. While the artwork featured at the bottom of this segment is really, really good, there's plenty of praise to spread around.

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Karen and Liz were inspired by one of the most popular items in our collection. It's a 1915 leaded glass work from Tiffany Studios, Portrait of a Woman in a Pergola with Wisteria, which is detailed in the inset.

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Ed produced a double homage: Banksy to echo Rene Magritte.

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The Prep team took advantage of their scissor lift to graffiti an entire wall in Edgy Vision.

Truth be told, in terms of creating something beautiful in a ripped-up gallery, Jamie and Marcy had an unfair advantage. In a space lit only by sparse work lights, they were working in the best light for pictures. Click any image to enlarge.

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1.The plans.

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2.The stencil.

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3.The assessment.

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4.The cell phone pix.

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5.The pose.

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6.The panda.


Earlier entries:

January 2013

October/December 2012

August/September 2012

June/July 2012