Friday, June 1 • 2:00pm - 2:30pm
(Natural History Collections) Moose on the Move: Relocation and Conservation of the Bell Museum’s Diorama Murals

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Established by the state legislature in 1872, the University of Minnesota’s Bell Museum of Natural History has a long history of preserving, researching, and displaying the diverse plant and wildlife of Minnesota. In the late 1930’s, then president of General Mills and conservationist James Ford Bell, helped provide funds to construct a dedicated museum building on the Minneapolis campus, which opened in 1940. The driving force behind Bell’s contribution was his desire to educate the public about Minnesota’s diverse wildlife and habitats, and encourage public support for their protection, especially declining species such as the gray wolf. The Bell museum was designed specifically to showcase sixteen large-scale dioramas, as well as several small and medium size dioramas. The first diorama constructed in the new space was the Gray wolf diorama sited on the shores of Lake Superior, with a background painted by well known American wildlife artist and Minnesota native Francis Lee Jaques (1887-1969). Over two decades, Jaques painted a total of nine large scale and many small diorama backgrounds for the Bell Museum, creating an internationally recognized collection with a focus on Minnesota’s wildlife and diverse ecosystems. Over time the dioramas didn’t appear to change, however, the building around them posed serious challenges and limitations. Poor climate control, reoccurring water infiltration, lack of handicap accessibility, and poor public access created the need to discuss options. After ten years of debate and planning, the decision was made to build a new Bell Museum on the St. Paul campus, opening summer of 2018, which would include the move of Jaques’ nine large scale dioramas and a tenth painted by Charles Abel Corwin in 1919. The planning phase also lead to the creation of a project team, including Bell museum staff, a construction crew, conservators, riggers, and museum specialists. Examination of the painted murals by conservators indicated that removing the canvas from the wall was not viable as it would severely damage the painted image and create a health hazard. Due to the size of the murals and constraints of the existing building the best option was to move the mural walls in three parts. Therefore, a plan was developed in which the murals would be stabilized, cut, secured with armature, and rigged out of the building. The team carried out a test move in January 2016. After the test was completed successfully, the project was fully approved and in January 2017 the diorama move began. While moving the foreground material was part of the overall scope of the project, this presentation will focus on the relocation and conservation of the murals. Preparation, structural fortification and rigging, reassembly and conservation of the components in the new building will be covered. Completion of the project yielded murals intact and structurally stable with no visible sign of the adventure they had been on.


Luke Boehnke

Principal, Wolf Magritte LLC
Luke Boehnke is the principal of Wolf Magritte LLC, located in Missoula Montana. Wolf Magritte specializes in design, fabrication, and rigging for difficult and/or large scale art and artifact installations. Luke Boehnke received his MFA from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago... Read More →

Kristine Jeffcoat-[PA]

Paintings Conservator, Midwest Art Conservation Center
Ms. Jeffcoat joined MACC in 2014. She has extensive experience in the care and preservation of paintings and painted surfaces, including canvas paintings, panel paintings, and painted sculpture, as well as Preventive Conservation. Prior to joining MACC, she worked at West Lake Conservators... Read More →


Tom Amble

Museum Preparator, Bell Museum of Natural History
Tom is a Museum Preparator with the James Ford Bell Museum of Natural History at the University of Minnesota, where he brings 30 years of experience fabricating exhibits, mountmaking, artifact installation, and coordinating traveling exhibits. His museum experience started with the... Read More →
avatar for Megan Emery-[Fellow]

Megan Emery-[Fellow]

Chief Conservator and Senior Objects Conservator, Midwest Art Conservation Center
Ms. Emery came to MACC from the Cincinnati Art Museum, where she was responsible for the care and preservation of all three-dimensional objects. Ms. Emery has extensive experience with ethnographic and archaeological materials, ceramics, lacquer, plasters, and the conservation of... Read More →
avatar for Don Luce

Don Luce

Curator of Exhibits, Bell Museum of Natural History
For over thirty years, Don Luce has been integrating art and science in the design and development of natural history exhibitions. He holds a degree in Zoology and a master’s degree in Medical and Biological Illustration from the University of Michigan, where he started his museum... Read More →

Friday June 1, 2018 2:00pm - 2:30pm
River Oaks Meeting Room Marriott Marquis Houston

Attendees (59)