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Inside Iowa State, a newspaper for faculty and staff, is published by the Office of University Relations.

Jan. 26, 2007

Movers, but not shakers

by Samantha Beres

Central Stores employees may move filing cabinets and desks around campus, but for decades, they have also moved Iowa State's most precious treasures across campus and across the country.

Central Stores manager Norm Hill recently drove 2,640 miles and 85 hours to Connecticut and upstate New York to pick up five cast bronze sculptures. And they weren't small.

Gerdin sculpture

Facilities staff maneuver Bravo III into position on its base west of the Gerdin Building earlier this month. Central Stores manager Norm Hill picked up the work of art from a Connecticut foundry. Photo by Bob Elbert.

Jersey Jewel, a sculpted cow that will be placed at the new dairy education facility this spring, weighs in at about 1,600 pounds. She shared space in the 26-foot truck with the equally heavy Bravo III and the smaller Men of Two Wars, Price of Victory and Abraham Lincoln sculptures, all wrapped in blankets and padding.

Coming home, the sculptures must have been chilly as the truck drove through lake-effect snow on Interstate 80 in Indiana. In near white-out conditions, Hill said suddenly there was a pop. The truck's engine had blown a turbo line. Hill pulled over, lifted the hood and with a borrowed screwdriver, fixed it. The necessary repairs were completed, and Hill never left his precious cargo unattended - even in a blizzard.

The one about . . .

The Central Stores crew has been moving works of art for 15 years and they have some good stories to tell.

Last July, they went to sculptor Norma "Duffy" Lyon's home and art studio to pick up the original, newly sculpted clay Jersey Jewel, and the summer heat was causing the clay cow, sitting in the back of the truck, to crack. The Central Stores staff, aided by Lyon and her family members, essentially built a "girdle" out of bed sheets and plastic wrap to hold together the clay cow's middle against the heat. Midway through the trip to New York, Hill and colleague Curt Purdum made a stop at a Kmart for supplies to wrap Jersey Jewel's legs and nose as well, to protect them from the melting summer heat.

Off the wall

Three years ago, Hill drove to Tennessee, Maryland, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C., to pick up four drawings loaned to University Museums for an exhibit called "Grant Wood's Main Street." It would be the only time all nine of Wood's drawings for the original Sinclair Lewis book had been shown in a museum exhibition. Hill removed and packed one drawing right off the owner's wall. The drawings were stored in the Smithsonian Institution's vault overnight. The next day, Hill, with a third loaned drawing from the Smithsonian in his possession, headed to his last stop at the Philadelphia Museum of Art to pick up a fourth drawing on his way back to Iowa. He hit a snowstorm in the mountains of Pennsylvania.

Locally reliable, too

The Central Stores crew does short treks, too. There are trips to art conservation studios in Chicago. In summers past, Central Stores employees loaded up sculptures such as full-scale plaster models of the Fountain of the Four Seasons and Forward to deliver to the Iowa State Fair.

There are national companies that specialize in moving art, but University Museums director Lynette Pohlman said there are two big reasons Iowa State relies on Central Stores.

"First and foremost, we trust them," Pohlman said, adding that Hill and his colleagues have acquired her skill of worrying when moving works of art. On the long trips, they often eat on the fly. GORP and bottled water carry them a long way. They stop as infrequently as possible. When they do stop at a restaurant or hotel, the parked truck always remains within their view.

The other advantage to using Central Stores to move works of art is that it's cost-effective. Iowa State has the nation's largest campus public art collection. As that collection has expanded, and special exhibits have been scheduled, Pohlman said Central Stores has saved the university substantial dollars in professional museum and art shipping.

Central Stores is designated as Iowa State University Museums' "Movers, Not Shakers of Art." This new signage appears on Central Stores' trucks, along with a reminder of the new Christian Petersen Art Museum which will open in Morrill Hall March 22. Central Stores will move the entire Christian Petersen collection from the Brunnier Art Museum to the new museum facility in February.


The Central Stores crew has been moving works of art for 15 years and they have some good stories to tell.