History fills up lots of boxes
Sketched Jan. 4, 2012
I started the year packing for a move. But I'm not going far. By Monday, my sketchbooks, art supplies and (hopefully) my computer will be just across the street in my new cubicle at The Seattle Times' consolidated offices on Denny Way.
Our newsroom move is a logistical nightmare because we have to keep producing a newspaper every day, but a visit to MOHAI gave me new perspective on what a really big move entails.
While packers organized vaults and crates in the basement, the museum staff was staging exhibits and restoring artifacts before packing them in custom containers. Photos aside, more than 100,000 artifacts must be slated for display or stored before the museum's grand opening at the old armory in Lake Union Park on Nov. 17. And the relics come in all shapes and sizes, including icons of Seattle's past such as a giant Rainier beer bottle from TV commercials, the "Slo-mo" hydroplane and the Lincoln Towing Toe Truck.
How do you begin to move all that? To start, the truck's toes will have to come off to get it through the door.
The sketches below didn't run in today's print edition.
There's more to the museum relocation than meets the eye. Before the Hansen Bros. movers begin to take the artifacts from Montlake to the old Armory, a good deal of cleaning, restoration and exhibit planning takes place in what museum staff calls the "staging room."
That's where I met art conservationists Corine Landrieu and Sarah Molitch as they worked on an interesting object. Molitch was using a toothbrush-like tool to clean damaged parts from the back of a wooden sculpture in the shape of a well-dressed gentleman sporting a fancy moustache. The piece is one of many figureheads that used to adorn the prows of sailing ships centuries ago. Landrieu said it was probably carved after the owner of the vessel.
In addition to cleaning and restoration, every artifact has to be staged before packing it away. It's important that all the pieces belonging to one display stay together, explained Kristin Halunen, the museum's registrar. On the sketch above, you can see costume and textile specialist Clara Berg checking the arrangement of items that will be part of a Victorian-era dressing room exhibit. The paper on the floor marks the shape of the custom container that will be used to transport the pieces.
Artifacts that will be on display for the first time at the new museum lay on shelves all over the staging room. I did this sketch, minus some of the color, while Halunen showed me a collection of early mobile phone prototypes. Next to them was a Macintosh computer just like the one I bought in 1990 when I was in college. Visiting the museum can be weird that way, said Halunen. "A lot of times you start to see your own life."
Some of MOHAI's prized possessions are so big that they had to cut a hole in the wall of the 1950s building to get them inside. That's how the B-1 floatplane, the first commercial plane made by Boeing, found its way to this tight corner of the museum. In a couple of months, it will go back through the same hole, now covered with a rolling garage-door, before it becomes one of the centerpieces of the new museum in Lake Union Park.
You can browse a gallery of sketches and purchase prints.