Bell Museum carefully moves from Minneapolis to St. Paul

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A very delicate operation is underway as the Bell Museum moves from one Twin City to another.

The University of Minnesota museum is carefully moving its famous dioramas from Minneapolis to St. Paul.

Curators George Weiblen and Tom Amble act a bit like expecting fathers, waiting for each delicate piece to be moved.

“This is the most excruciating moment in the diorama move and restoration,” Weiblen said.

“This is the first time they've gone out of one building into another on this scale,” Amble said.

The source of apprehension includes shrink-wrapped pieces of museum wall on flatbeds about to be hoisted by crane.

“We're not aware of any museum that's moved 3-dimensional pieces of art like this on this scale,” Weiblen said.

When the old Bell Museum closed in December, its famous dioramas began being carefully dissected to move all the pieces labeled for position and packed up.

But the giant hand-painted backdrops had to come as they are.

“That was our original plan, to take the canvas off the walls,” Amble said. “But the canvas is attached to the walls too strong, too sturdy, and you just can't remove them […] the solution to that problem was [to] move the entire wall.”

So, they cut a hole in the old bell to slide them out.

Three miles away, inside steel frames and boat wrap, hoisted up to the hole is the new bell.

The museum has come a long way already, but it's still a year from opening. It's taken six months to take these apart and just that long to put them back together.

“The cost of moving them might be high, but the cost of starting from scratch is probably five times as high,” Amble said.