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Guest Blogger: Shelley Blackburn, Philbrook Assistant Preparator
Preparing Philbrook's Helmerich Gallery for Antibodies: The Works of Fernando and Humberto Campana, 1989-2009, was a monumental task to say the least. Before the building of platforms could even begin, the prep crew had to transform the space from the previous exhibit to the new layout. This involved moving 32 five foot sections of walls that weigh 500lbs each. Once we had the walls in place, we spackled our seams together and gave them a fresh coat of paint.
Prep crew member, Mike Sexton, finding the correct angle for platform number five. Each platform is site specific and has different dimensions and angles. On average, we were able to build two per week.
While building the platforms, we also had to keep in mind that the hardwood floors of the gallery needed to be protected. In order to do this, we included a two by four under each stud and lined it with felt so that the braces would never come into contact with the hardwood floor. Because the platforms would be holding a lot of weight, we framed them by placing the two by fours 16” centers, ensuring that the platforms are sturdy enough to hold an elephant let alone the objects in the exhibit.
Chief Preparator, George Brooks, and crew members working to complete platform number seven. The framing and bracing was done using two by fours while we skinned the top using 3/4” AC grade plywood. Once the platforms were built and painted we were faced with the issue of keeping them clean and the seams sealed. To protect the paint and prevent scuff marks, we used blankets, butcher paper, and plastic.
Randy Kouns, our AV technician, working to install one of six projectors from the ceiling. Because the show traveled from the Vitra Design Museum in Germany we had to adapt the electronics from 220 voltage to 110 voltage.
Philbrook’s Mabee Lobby was the staging area for the Vitra crates before they were unpacked. The Museum received five containers full of crates. We emptied and filled the Mabee Lobby three times during installation. While one crew worked to unpack the objects, another crew worked to take away the empty crates to an offsite storage facility. This was quite a feat, but under the direction of Chief Preparator George Brooks, there was method to the organized chaos.
Once the platforms were built and the objects uncrated, there was still a lot of construction to do. Many objects required specific hardware in order to either hang from the ceiling or be placed on the sloping platforms without sliding down or toppling over. We couldn't be happier with the end result!
The crew from left to right: Mike Sexton, Assistant Preparator Shelley Blackburn, Courier Nick Bernd, Tom Conrad, Mac Hill, Chief Preparator George Brooks, KB Huber, Phillip Smith, Coordinating Curator Lauren Ross, Greg Butchello. Front Row: Travis Flournoy, Courier Patrick Luetzelshwab and Chelsea Pierce. There are many people missing from this photograph, but every person on Philbrook’s staff contributed to the success of this exhibition.
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