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Our Renovation/Construction Update Blog

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Drake Davis in the process of removing a wall for the expanded contemporary art galleries. Click to enlarge.


Jan. 31, 2013

A Gallery and Exhibition Update (Of Sorts)

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The Ricau Gallery, then and now. Click any image to enlarge.

For those who remember one of our most popular galleries—and two of our most popular exhibitions when we closed the doors Dec. 30— here's how they look today.


Jan. 29, 2013

Welders Tighten Up Our Memorial Garden Addition

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A beautiful day for welding, even for those working high off the ground. The warm, sunny day lifted spirits, and was a welcome relief from recent bitter cold.


"It's really starting to look like something," the construction worker marveled. And we were quick to agree.

On one side of the Museum, concrete poured the day before (a mind-boggling 123 cubic yards!) was firming up and crews were scurrying to remove the forms. On the Memorial Garden side, welders methodically tapped and zapped their way across the steel superstructure for the new addition. Two worked the roof line, a third worked below the floor decking. Sparks were flying, and good progress was made.

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Jan. 28, 2013

Construction Outside, Demolition Inside

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Here's the final floor pour for the addition on the Mary's Garden side of the building. The view from the roof is a photo by Tim Fink and it might wind up as our only construction picture with snow on the ground. As always, click any image to enlarge.

Mark down today as the last day a painting was still hanging on a wall. There was a good reason Thomas Cole's 1833-34 oil-on-canvas work The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds was the last item crated for safekeeping. It was big enough to cover an entire wall (counting the frame, its size is 110 by 193 inches) and it's now safely tucked away inside a custom-built, protective frame.

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First-floor demolition is nearing completion. The exposed bricks date back to the Museum's original construction in the 1930s.

Jan. 23, 2013

From Dark Galleries to the Kitchen Sink

At top, a windowless gallery where the electrical is being pulled out means a light on a hard hat comes in handy. The hard hats, as shown at right, are for a good reason.

Below, at first left, the demolition literally includes the kitchen sink. Second left shows how to protect a really big picture. You start with a really big frame.

Outside, the steel girders outline the new addition. It took two days to erect the steel. It'll take the welders about a week to finish the job.

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Jan. 22, 2013

Cold Weather, Cold Steel. Quick, Efficient Work on the Memorial Garden Addition

Amidst all the demolition and preparation, we've been waiting for things to start moving skyward.

Then it happened. And in just two days, the big steel for the Memorial Garden addition was in place.

The day started cloudy and cold and ended up clear and colder. And despite having to manipulate huge bolts in thick gloves, it all went together like clockwork. Click any image to enlarge.

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Jan. 18, 2013

Photos From the Behind the Scenes—And Thanks for the Captions

At top left, a scene from this week's Staff Hard Hat Tour. With demolition picking up in certain areas, things are changing fast.

Top middle, we asked the Chrysler Museum Facebook Nation to guess what was inside the single crate. Guesses ranged from a Tardis (Dr. Who) to the Mirror of Erised (Harry Potter) to quantum physics (Schrodinger's cat). In truth, what's inside is a case we use for a magnificent candelabrum.

At top right, demolition debris hits the dumpster outside the front door, and at immediate right, reflections captured in plexiglass that used to protect items in our porcelain gallery. As always, click any image to enlarge.

Next week we're expecting another massive concrete pour for the Mary's Garden addition, and steelwork on the Memorial Garden side. Stay tuned.

Jan. 14, 2013

The Not-So-Simple Movement Of A 500-Year-Old Carved Stone Archway

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At left, a 16th Century Gothic doorway from France. It long graced the Dalis Foundation Galleries of European Art while doubling as an entryway to a passenger elevator. At right, consultant Scott McKee was tasked with solving numerous problems in making the object safe for movement. Here he is analyzing the structural soundness after cutting away drywall to expose the back of the piece. Click any image to enlarge.

A key goal of our renovation is to improve pedestrian traffic flow downstairs. To do that, we have to move our elevator, and to move the elevator, we had to move an elaborately carved stone portal that embellished the elevator on the second floor. That's where consulting conservators Scott McKee and Andrew Baxter came in.

Conserving and protecting stone is a field full of surprises. They found, for instance, that there was no frame around this intricately carved frieze—that it was essentially being held in place by drywall. When it came to some of the mortar involved in the piece, well, let's just say standards are higher now than they used to be. Since the frieze would have to be lifted, the pieces would have to be supported and locked into frames.

These are what a stuctural engineer would call boundary-value problems, but we'll spare you the calculations. In the end, after the careful planning, packing and plastering, everything worked out fine, as seen in the final picture below. The project starts on the left, and click any image to enlarge.

Jan. 10, 2013

Massive Concrete Pour for the Porch in our Memorial Garden

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On an unseasonably warm day, we poured an enormous amount of concrete to finish the porch for our Memorial Garden addition. We are hoping to see steel being erected on this spot within two weeks. Click any image to enlarge.


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Jan. 10, 2013

We're Working to Show You What's Going on Behind
the Scenes, but We're Also Following Some Very Important Rules

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Pictures like this one from a temporary staging area are really rare—and for good reason. Click the image to enlarge, and read below for details.

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Some irony as we pack up. Click to enlarge.

We generally do not discuss anything related to the movement of art. There are lots of reasons for this, ranging from the obvious (security) to the obscure (proper protocols and handling).

We rarely if ever actually photograph art being moved. This is field where mistakes are not an option, and a great work of art being damaged because somebody tripped over a photographer just can't happen.

We understand the interest in behind-the-scenes coverage, and we try to balance the legitimate interests of the art professionals with the curiosity of the public. Quite simply, we're trying to show as much as we can without getting in the way.

These same principles apply as we document the construction progress on our building. Our general contractor, KBS, is incredibly safety conscious—and they should be. As safety conditions have permitted, they have been great at granting access, and in return, we get in, get our pictures and then get out of their way.

Our renovation and expansion is a big project with lots of different dynamics at work. And we'll keep you as up-to-date as we possibly can.

Jan. 7, 2013

It's Irreplaceable, 2,500 years old, Extemely Heavy And Cracked.
No Big Deal, Except That It Has To Be Moved.

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Chrysler Conservator Mark Lewis, right, discusses the state of Sarcophagus of Psamtik-Seneb with consultant Adam Jenkins from Philadelphia.

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Above, a look at one of the early repairs. Click any image to enlarge.

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As Adam Jenkins peeks and notes and probes and calculates all the possible options involved in moving a 9,000-pound artifact, remember this is more than a sarcophagus.

It's a crime scene.

Spend some time with Jenkins and he'll show you where the grave robbers of a century before used a crowbar to bust open an ancient seal. He'll show you how the beautifully decorated top was pried off and broken in the lust for gold. He'll show you repairs that were made in Portland cement, repairs in Plaster of Paris, and he'll walk you through which repairs can be trusted and which cracks are the most worrisome.

As we completely redesign our Ancient Worlds collection, this giant piece will need to be moved to allow for construction, and it also needs to be reinstalled in a way that lets people appreciate the majesty of the details on the lid. But before any of that can happen, ancient concrete must be supported in ways that will allow for movement. Crumbling under its own weight on a forklift is not an option.

"One of my first professors in this field," Jenkins said, "told me that this job is 98 percent tedium and two percent sheer terror." After all the calculations have been done, all the rigging installed, at some point all those theories must be put to a real-world test. In the case of The Sarcophagus of Psamtik-Seneb, that will be in about two weeks.

After some conversations with a structural engineer. And a few more calculations.

Jan. 3, 2013

Behind the Scenes: The Deinstallation of Charlotte's Web Begins

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This is a work of art consisting of 864 Facebook profile pictures translated onto glass cameos, and it has to be disassembled and packed in a way where the next Museum to show it will have a clear roadmap of how to put it all back together. Add in 864 hooks, nearly 1,000 precisely measured lengths of chain, multiple clusters of pictures—aw, it's piece of cake! Read the details below, and click any image to enlarge.

Charlotte's Web not only translated all of Charlotte Potter's Facebook friends into glass cameos, it linked them all together by way of relationships. It's a huge, sprawlng work because she needed to mirror the geography of the friendship connection, from East Coasters such as RISD friends to halfway around the world in New Zealand.

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As Hannah, in red, and Melanie, wearing green, worked to carefully remove, catalog and pack the pieces, there was a considerable amount of planning involved. Each individual cameo has an envelope with the Facebook Profile picture on it. The individual items are filed away in their respective "hubs," as Charlotte called the groupings, and there are tags on the precisely measured chains that make the web aspect of this dynamic piece come alive.

It's another illustration of how packing up a museum is no ordinary move. Hannah and Melanie expect it to take at least two full days to safely pack this work in storage.

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Jan. 2, 2013

A Quick Behind-the-Scenes Glimpse Now That The Doors Have Closed

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We made an interesting discovery during the demolition for our soon-to-be-expanded glass galleries. This secret graffiti was left behind by construction workers back in the 1980s. The messages: "Be surreal," "Gimme a Braque," and "Cubismal." Click the image to enlarge.

Wednesday, Jan. 2 was our first day with doors closed instead of open, and for staffers, it took some getting used to. There's a clear sense that the hustle and bustle of renovation is speeding up.

As shown below left, the tools of the trade nowadays are bubble wrap, boxes and tape. Stroll the galleries and you will routinely see packing peanuts in bags the size of refrigerators.

In the middle, note the careful pre-packing to ship April Surgent's beautiful glass art back to her home studio in Seattle— from specific pre-positioned crates to moving pads on the packing tables.

And at right, Pinaree Sanpitak's exhibition Temporary Insanity is one of the most anticipated art exhibitions of 2013. Her beautiful stuffed stupas need to be in Austin, Texas in a very short time. As shown in the double image, the top shows how it looked Sunday night, and the bottom shows how it looked first thing Wednesday morning. As always, click any image to enlarge.

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Earlier entries:

October-December 2012

August/September 2012

June/July 2012