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Thursday, May 16 • 9:00am - 9:30am
(Collection Care) When It’s too Big! Moving and Safeguarding Three Oversize Native American Objects During Renovations at the Denver Art Museum

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The Denver Art Museum (DAM) is currently renovating a building on its campus, designed by Gio Ponti and completed in 1971. A tile-clad, towering-like castle, this is Ponti’s only building in the US. 2021 marks its 50th anniversary and to celebrate, the renovation is on course to deliver improved infrastructure and visitor experience. Included are new energy efficient systems, expanded galleries and storage, and a new conservation laboratory. Key to the project was the removal of the entire collection and all furnishings. In an ideal world, everything would be removed. However, there are three very large collection objects that have defied the intended process: two historic Haida totem poles and one contemporary sculpture made from straw and adobe. All three of the objects hold an important place in the chronicles of Ponti’s building. The two C-shaped Haida totem poles were carved in Alaska and each dates from the 1870s. They came into the collection of the DAM in 1946. The heights of the poles are 29 and 24 feet, estimated weights are 4000 lbs. each. From the time of their creation until 1971, the totems were displayed outdoors, resulting in naturally weathered surfaces and varying degrees of degradation. As the Ponti building was being completed, the totems were individually cradled and brought into the building by crane through an unfinished wall and placed in the North West Coast gallery, located on the second floor. The building was subsequently finished. Until December, 2017, the poles remained in this location. Working with outside specialists and contractors, the conservation and curatorial departments undertook the task of relocating the poles. The process began with an overall condition evaluation that informed the process of stabilizing, de-installing, and moving the totems using custom-fabricated armatures, and thereafter providing temporary protective storage. The third object, Mud Woman Rolls On, was commissioned by Santa Clara artist, Roxanne Swentzel in 2011. It is 12H x 6W x 8 D feet and was fabricated in situ from straw and adobe in the elevator lobby adjacent to the 3rd floor Native American gallery. The sculpture was constructed on a platform designed to accommodate a palette jack for future movement and relocation. The piece is estimated to weight 2000 including its platform. Although intended to be able to fit into the nearby freight elevator, the artistic process intervened and the sculpture outgrew the elevator, rendering null the only point that would facilitate removal from the building. The sculpture would have to remain in the midst of construction. Conservation, collection management, exhibitions, and curatorial staff – along with the building contractors - joined forces to determine a means for moving the sculpture using air sleds, as well as designing and constructing both physical and environmental protection for the duration. This presentation will explore the collaborative creative processes and innovative designs that were employed for moving and providing safeguards for these important cultural objects up until their eventual re-installation as part of the 50th year celebration

avatar for Gina J. Laurin

Gina J. Laurin

Conservator, Denver Art Museum
Gina Laurin is presently the Senior Objects Conservator at the Denver Art Museum and has been at the Museum for 12 years. Ms. Laurin received her post-graduate degree in the Conservation of Archaeological Materials from Durham University, Durham, England. In her career, Gina has worked... Read More →
avatar for Sarah E. Melching

Sarah E. Melching

Conservator, Denver Art Museum
Sarah Melching received her M.A.C. in paper conservation from Queen’s University. She also had additional training at the Library of Congress, National Gallery of Canada, and the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. From 1992-2007, Sarah was in private practice in the Pacific Northwest... Read More →

Thursday May 16, 2019 9:00am - 9:30am EDT
Salon A2-A3, Uncas Ballroom Sky Convention Center, Mohegan Sun
  Specialty Session, Collection Care
  • Track Collection Care
  • Ticketed Included in Main Registration
  • Authors in Publication Order Gina Laurin
  • Abstract ID 18453
  • Tags Haida totem poles,large adobe sculpture,move/storage cradles,custom enclosure during construction/renovations