Delicate work begins to remove art from Speed Art Museum - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Delicate work begins to remove art from Speed Art Museum

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LOUISVILLE, KY (WDRB) -- As bundled construction workers tossed boards into a dumpster outside the Speed Art Museum; inside "de-construction" workers treaded lightly around panels of wood that date back to the 1620s.

"You can't rush it, I'm amazed at this crew working on it from 8 to 5 everyday," said Scott Erbes, the curator for the museum. "The wood came out of a house in southwestern England, the carving is just extraordinary."

The painstaking work to remove the wood from the English Renaissance room began last week to dismantle and restore the wood. It's all part of the museum's $50 million renovation that will force the museum to remain closed for three years.

The museum will add a new gallery and exhibits when it reopens in 2015.

"So there's a lot to peel back and try to figure out," said Nigel Johnson, who was making rubbings of stained-glass windows from the 1800s.

"They survived the Napoleonic wars - some of these things have been through quite a life," he said.

Dating back to the 19th century, they're virtual newbies compared to the wood carvings in the English Renaissance room that date back to the 1620s.

Each piece is carefully removed, numbered and placed on a padded shelf to be reassembled later

Scott Erbes, the director of collections and exhibitions and curator at the museum, said "by taking it down, we can also understand how it got changed."

The last time this wood was touched in the English room was during the installation at the end of World War II.

Removing the panels is the task of Mike Kelley and his crew of historic carpenters.

"This is the kind of thing that I can't believe I'm getting paid for doing this. The guys and I talk about it when we are not doing this," said Kelley.

Kelley says the wood is dryer than cornflakes and wants to break when you look at.

"They're very delicate we want a place to put each of them and only handle them once and get them into their storage unit," said Kelley.

But for Kelley it doesn't feel like work.

"Not one bit, not one bit," he said.

Just a labor of love to ensure art remains art.


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