Preparation and Early Discoveries
Before our technicians could begin, we had to design a bespoke support scaffold structure that would allow us working access to the main body of the skeleton, whilst providing a lifting point for the heavier fragments.
Mark Hunt was Project Manager for this historic move with Technical Manager Ben Sparkes and Senior Technicians Phil Douglas, Jim Cooper and Anthony Madden. Together, they were responsible for the safe handling, packing and lifting of this iconic and significant exhibit.
Due to the age and fragility of the cast, our initial challenge was to assess the complete structure with the Conservation team. Primary findings confirmed that the plaster facsimile bones were thread through a long metal pole, which securely held the pieces in place.
Each section was tagged in preparation before the first piece was dismantled from the pole. After this stage its spindling, winding tail was carefully removed from the main frame and placed into a large foam-protected crate. The main section of the spine was originally intended to be crated in small fragments; however, due to the prominence of the pole, larger pieces had to be removed. We lowered each section of the spine to the ground, ready to be assessed and wrapped.
Dismantling was progressively challenging for our team as the pieces increased in size and weight. After the skull and neck were both removed, we carefully detached the pubis, ischium, scapula, sternum and ribs. This was later was followed by each leg, the central vertebra and Ilium.
Timescales were constantly monitored, but since this was a once-in-a-generation project, it was difficult to confirm exactly how long the entire process would take, especially as each individual piece has to be assessed and cleaned prior to packing.
The final stage before packing could begin was to fill all the unique bone cavities with acid-free tissue and Tyvek. We then applied further tissue around each piece and positioned inside a conservation-quality acid free box, lined with foam. It was vital each section was secured with the greatest attention to detail, so a high level of patience and perseverance was required. In addition, detailed documentation for this process was paramount, so each piece was expertly recorded by the conservators before they were placed in the secure crates.