One exhibit. 600 objects dispersed over the 36 feet tall display case. Two to three weeks to take every last piece of it down.
This is the task the Natural History Museum of Utah has set itself. Located at the southeastern edge of the U’s campus, NHMU’s extensive warehouse-like space serves as host to a variety of exhibits and displays. But this one — the 36 feet tall, 600 item deep, currently-being-disassembled Collections Wall — is arguably the most iconic. Chances are, if you’ve gone, you’d recognize it: sweeping butterflies surrounded by fossils, pottery, baskets, stuffed animals of the formerly living variety filling that huge glass case prominently featured in NHMU’s Canyon; it’s hard to miss.
Tim Lee, Senior Exhibit Designer at NHMU, spoke on the display’s original purpose. “We designed it in a way that I think is really a union between arts and science,” he said. “They come together as a composition and tell a story of beauty of our natural world.”
Will Black is the Supervisor of Exhibit Services. For him, the true beauty of the display came from stepping back. “My favorite part is when you step back and look at it as a whole.”
Now, though, the time for change has come. Once removed, an arduously cautious process that will only get more precarious as exhibit preparators move higher into the display, some items will go into storage, away from the harmful light rays they have been subjected to over the course of those five years. These will be replaced by new items.
For Black, this change is an exciting one. “It’s really going to be a lot of fun to take it apart and reassemble it,” he said.
Though the design will be significantly altered, some parts may seem familiar. “We didn’t want to completely change it,” Lee said. Happily, this means that striking butterfly design won’t be cut.
The new Collections Wall, which will involve more plant items, as well as a collection of those disgustingly appealing animals in jars, will be set in the same place as the current display and will be up mid-November.