Email Us – or – CALL (757) 664-6200

Our Expansion and Renovation Update Blog

Click to enlarge

July 31, 2013

Wrapping up a Productive Month

As we head toward construction completion five months away from tomorrow, we present a roundup of recent activity. Shown above, it takes quite a drill to bore holes for in-floor electrical outlets, as shown by the plug of removed concrete a few feet away from the hole. Elsewhere:

• On the new second floor bathrooms, Wednesday we not only had sparks flying, we even had old-school plumbing action complete with flux and sweated copper pipes.

• We had another aerial delivery on Wednesday, and once the crew was finished hoisting equipment through an air intake, work began on reinstalling the intake grillwork.

• We saw walls going up in the new glass galleries and we saw an unusual method of holding a flashlight.

• As proof of just how sweeping this renovation is, we're even redesigning our parking lots, starting with the area behind the Glass Studio.

So as the stored art waits patiently, the blog department will be taking a few days off. Until next time, here's to everyone working so hard on our behalf following the advice on the hard hat.

Click to enlarge

July 30, 2013

HVAC Equipment Wasn't the Only Thing Flying Through the Air

Before the rigging crew, shown above, could start landing flying equipment, they first had to clear the flying insects. We can't say for sure if it was wasps, hornets or mud daubers who had built a new home in this rooftop opening, and we didn't get a picture of the swarm, but we got a picture of the last one being shooed away.

The equipment-placing task combined high tech and low. Modern cranes have sophisticated computer and GPS systems, and from 100 feet away with an obstructed view, the operator could drop the new HVAC equipment within 18 inches of the wall. So after earlier-placed equipment was muscled over to make room, the riggers lined it up from the inside and guided it in from outside before using a clever series of chain-hoist pulleys to bring the equipment to a soft landing. Viewed up close, you get an idea of just how big these AC units are.

Click to enlarge

July 26, 2013

Brazing Brass—And Hoping it Goes Unnoticed

Shown above, as part of the complete re-imagination of our Ancient Worlds galleries, objects in new display cases will be getting brand new mounts. The idea is that these brass mounts should be as unobtrusive as possible when the object is displayed. So while curious objects dot the shop tables, work continues on the galleries where these objects will be displayed.

Elsewhere, for the first time in 122 days, there is no scaffolding surrounding the new south addition. The limestone cladding looks great and construction on the porch could begin next week. And since it's Friday, here's to wishing a great weekend to all the crew members who are carefully working on our behalf.

Click to enlarge

July 25, 2013

From an Epic Concrete Pour to Washing French Fries

Shown above, wet concrete flows into a form that will provide a base for new air conditioning units. Pretty routine for a project like ours—except the concrete had to be pumped through a 141-feet boom to reach this top-floor workspace.

On a day where exterior cladding work steadily crept towards the roofline, inside the glass cleaning project reached a unique situation—the Blue Plate Special work of John Miller. He's a glass artist famous for making super-sized fast-food staples, and the wash crew can now say something very few people can ever say. "I've been washing curly fries."

Click to enlarge

July 24, 2013

With the Heat Easing, the Hustle and Bustle Picks Up

A busy day all over the Museum. Shown above, workers bring in insulation for our new additions, and just a few feet away, work continued on installing the case frames in what will be our new glass gallery.


• Upstairs in the mechanical towers, ductwork installation continues for our new energy efficient units. In the space where an old inefficient unit was recently ripped out, holes are being bored to anchor the new equipment scheduled to arrive within days.

• Outside, workers are placing the bases for our new porch columns and attaching the final few stones at the top of the south addition (thanks to heavy equipment that makes it easy to deliver the mortar).

• In addition to big sweeping changes, we're making smaller ones, too. For instance, we're installing a display window in the Museum Shop right off of Huber Court.

• And finally, we're actively taking reservations for weddings and other social events for when we reopen. You can even still take a tour, but be advised you'll have to wear a hard hat.

Click to enlarge

July 22, 2013

Picking Up Where We Left Off. A Routine Monday Here

Some days big new initiatives begin. This was not one of those days.

Shown above is a project we'll address at length later this week. Every glass object that will be displayed upon reopening is in the process of being washed, a painstaking process that has more in common with chemistry class than a kitchen. It's been in progress for weeks and will continue for months as thousands of objects—many centuries old—are involved.

Elsewhere, with last week's electrical cutover in the rear view mirror, work resumed on the new HVAC ductwork. The sheet metal pieces are so big this picture was taken from inside of one. Work resumed in the glass galleries as the Explus contractors were back on site, and final touches were being applied to the new roof on the south addition. Throw in a magic truck and a new week's work is underway.

Click to enlarge

July 19, 2013

The First Clue is The Oven Thermometer

On Fridays we like to thank the crew for all their work on our behalf, but today it's a special tip of the hat to the guys installing the standing seam roof on our new additions. We're not saying this is the most accurate temperature reading, but it's pretty remarkable that they need a thermometer made for ovens to measure their working conditions.

Click to enlarge

July 18, 2013

The Word for Today is Tight

On a day when our board chairman toured the jobsite, two matters were dominating. The first was an upcoming big electrical cutover for our new HVAC systems, which is and has been the process of squeezing big units into small spaces. Shown above, the electrician who was actually working inside the claustrophobic Air Handler Unit took it all in stride. "I once had two guys hold my feet while they dropped me in a hole. It's what happens when you're the skinny guy."

The second thing dominating was the heat, most readily felt by the roofers. The rooftop trimming crew set up shop 40 yards away from the actual work site because they were clinging to any scrap of shade. They figure the heat index on the roof is about 130 degrees. Yesterday at noon, as the crew went back to work carrying gallon jugs of water under their arms, one was asked if it was his second gallon. "No,' he replied. "It's my third."

To close out:
• Since the guys installing the standing seam metal roof are brothers, and only one has blogged so far, here's to no feuds at Thanksgiving.
• When it's this hot, it just seems strange to see workers insulating heating ducts.
• And finally, a shout-out to all those who will be pulling an all-nighter on the electrical cutover. There's a lot involved in wiring up all the new controls, and we really appreciate the extra effort.

Click to enlarge

July 16, 2013

The Building's Not on Fire. It Just Feels Like It

Shown above, dust flies from a block saw as the limestone cladding crew keeps rolling along. When it comes to stones so heavy a third man lifting can come in handy, it's worth noting the pieces all get up on that scaffolding thanks to a man operating equipment with a sometimes tricky boom arm. Serious concentration is required.

On a day so hot we were consulting an online heat index calculator, we learned something new. When the TV weatherperson reports the heat index, that's how the combination of heat and humidity feels in the shade. It's 10 to 15 degrees hotter in the direct sunlight. That means, as the roofers were close to wrapping up work on the north addition, the heat index was 117 as one crew member was installing the Z-channel while another followed behind with the flashing. The sweat stains on his shirt say it all.

Click to enlarge

July 15, 2013

The Gloves Aren't Protection Against Cuts. The Metal Gets Too Hot to Handle

As the hottest week yet approaches for our construction crew, it's hard to believe just five months ago workers were dressed like this. Shown above, the metal ridge cap being snapped into place can get quite hot in the summer sun. That's especially true when the rest of the roof is a jet-black, thick rubber membrane that reaches the temperature of a toaster.

The roofers had company upstairs on this scorching sunny day, as the pieces from last week's air handler demolition project were craned off to be recycled. The crew passed debris through an intake turned into a temporary exit where it was placed in a flying bin before finally landing in a dumpster.

Also sweating their way through the day was the limestone cladding crew. They may still use the same sort of string levels used by ancient Egyptian masons but the rig on top is a laser level that adds a significant measure of precision. If you look closely, you can see the laser dot in this photo.

Click to enlarge

July 15, 2013

Another Example of Calm Courage—Work on a 2,600-year-old Egyptian Artifact

As part of our effort to re-imagine every single gallery, many items will be displayed in brand new ways. We'll get to this sarcophagus cover in greater detail in coming days, but just imagine your job is working with eggshells. This magnificent piece seems so incredibly cracked and fragile up close, but it's just another day at the office for our behind-the-scenes talent. Shown above Gwen is strengthening weak spots before it's mounted in its new home. The piece is made out of painted sycamore wood that's more than 2,500 years old and a substance called cartonnage, which is specific term for a sort of papier-mache made out of papyrus or linen and plaster or resin.

Click to enlarge

July 12, 2013

An Open-Door Policy Even When Demolition is Right Outside the Door

One of the reasons we were nationally recognized as a "Magnetic Museum" is our strong corporate culture that stresses helpfulness and open communication. This is epitomized by the open-door policy maintained by Museum Director William Hennessey. When renovation work came within six feet of his office, his door stayed open and he didn't miss a beat.

On Fridays we like to tip our hat to all the people working and sweating on our behalf, and this week we want to make it an extra special thank you. From workers installing new ceilings to those taking down the scaffolding, to every plumber, roofer, electrician, case installer, drywall taper and mason, we want you to know how much you are appreciated. And for those keeping score at home, on the dust-to-mud pendulum, it's back to mud.

Click to enlarge

July 10, 2013

Applying Heat, and Beating the Heat, on a Blistering July Day

On a day when our oldest and largest air handler finally came down (after cutting and cutting and cutting), a major task for all concerned was beating the heat. Turns out, the higher you were working, the better the breeze. This came in handy at lunchtime, as a shady spot and a breeze meant you could put your feet up for awhile. Alas, this too shall soon end. On the southern addition, with the limestone work largely complete, the scaffolding is starting to come down.

Click to enlarge

July 9, 2013

Today it's Still Known as AHU12. By the End of the Week, it'll be Called Scrap

Shown above, progress continues on chopping a massive air handler into pieces small enough to get outside. Seemed as soon as one cut was made, planning started on the next. Outside, the limestone cladding crew hit a snag that sent them back to check the plans, and when things like that happen, it's a good time to follow the advice on the hard hat.

Click to enlarge

July 8, 2013

Going Green—Even in the Most Unusual Places

Saving energy is a key priority in this project, and that's why we found Mike swapping out old light fixtures in an out-of-the-way storage area Monday morning. Our staff electrician will be changing bulbs when the wiring is right, or changing the ballasts or the entire fixture when necessary. We've talked before how this project will touch every display in every gallery, but as this picture shows, our green initiative extends into many places you'll never, ever see. Click image to enlarge.

Click to enlarge

July 3, 2013

A Crew in a Good Mood as the Holiday Approaches

Outside, our job site alternates between dust and mud, and today it was mud. Most of the noise inside was coming from Room 308, where behind a normal size doorway there's a huge old air handler being cut into pieces and removed. The crew has been marveling at how something so big ever got there in the first place, and turns out, the leading theory is that the room was completed after the unit was installed. One thing is certain—the age of the equipment is easy to see. Check out the gauges and mechanical buttons on a control panel that was on its way to a dumpster.

Click to enlarge

July 1, 2013

On a Humid Monday, Folks are Sweating on our Behalf

Shown above, as the limestone cladding works its way to the roof line, the heavy pieces are carefully placed after being lifted in by a crane visible from the other side of the building. In the sweltering upstairs mechanical towers, workers were cutting a hole in stubborn, steel-reinforced concrete big enough to accommodate the huge air ducts so necessary for climate-protecting our art. In the new glass galleries, some cases will even include their own individualized climate control to keep condensation from forming on the glass.

Earlier entries

June 2013

May 2013

April 2013

March 2013

February 2013

January 2013

October/December 2012

August/September 2012

June/July 2012