Museum staff began preparing for the move to the University of Minnesota’s St. Paul campus on Monday morning, the Star Tribune reported. They removed glass from cases to document the details of each exhibit.
Plans to move the museum, which have been in the works for over a decade, have attracted criticism. Nine large dioramas painted by famed wildlife artist Francis Lee Jaques will be moved to the new $57.5 million facility.
Stephen C. Quinn, a longtime artist and retired associate of the American Museum of Natural History, attempted to persuade officials to leave them in the old building.
“Tearing the dioramas out of the Bell would be like ripping Michelangelo’s murals out of the Sistine Chapel,” Quinn said in a recent Facebook post.
The Bell has received about a half dozen letters from people on the East Coast urging officials to leave the dioramas behind.
“He’s very well-intentioned, and I certainly understand his attachments to Jaques’ dioramas, but he doesn’t understand the problem,” said James Ford Bell, president of the American Alliance of Museums in Washington, D.C., and a grandson of the museum’s founder. “The university is not going to have a building sitting there in the middle of the campus with no purpose other than to hold some dioramas. The Bell is woefully in need of repair and upgrading, and that’s just not going to happen.”
Bell officials recently secured state funding for the new museum after arguing the current building is energy-inefficient and isn’t easily accessible to disabled visitors. An estimate conducted several years ago found it would cost $20 million to bring the building up to code.
The museum plans to move 11 of its 16 large dioramas, including those painted by Jaques, and will continue use them as the centerpiece of its $20 million art collection.
“I have visited every natural history museum in North America to interview everyone who has moved dioramas,” said curator Don Luce. “We’ve tested for lead, mercury, asbestos and arsenic, and examined the adhesives used. So we have done as much as we can, except consulting structural engineers before we take them apart.”
The new building has yet to be designed, but its 12-acre site is expected to incorporate a 120-seat planetarium, galleries for traveling exhibits, classrooms and a cafe.
It’s still unclear what will happen to the current Bell building after the move.
Information from: Star Tribune, http://www.startribune.com
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