CINCINNATI — It sounds like the beginning of a bad joke: How do you move an Allosaurus exhibit that weighs more than 500 pounds?
That describes how Cincinnati Museum Center staffers have been working over the past two weeks to take apart, move and reassemble the center's 20-foot-long dinosaur skeleton. Its new temporary home is in the downtown branch of The Public Library of Cincinnati and Hamilton County. The big polar bear from the Museum of Natural History & Science will be moving to the library, too.
The Allosaurus and bear are among roughly 500 exhibits being moved to other locations throughout the region as part of the Museum Center's "Curate My Community" initiative. The goal is to take the exhibits on the road while Union Terminal undergoes a massive $212.7 million renovation over the next two years, made possible by a quarter-cent increase in Hamilton County's sales tax that voters approved in 2014.
"This (Allosaurus) is one of the more fragile things — just the nature of the shape of the thing," said Jay Bader, a long-time exhibits coordinator at the Museum Center.
"It's right there in the scientific name," exhibit technician Kevin Kunz added with a smirk. "Allosaurus fragilis."
All kidding aside, moving the Allosaurus, polar bear and so many other iconic exhibits out of Union Terminal has taken serious planning and coordination over the past year.
Museum Center Registrar Jennifer Jensen has had to make sure the objects will be safe at their new, temporary homes and will have the proper security and climate control. And Sarah Lima, the Museum Center's director of exhibits business development, has been figuring out how to move the items out of Union Terminal and what changes could be made to exhibits to address any problems that worry Jensen.
Still, Jensen, Lima and Museum Center CEO Elizabeth Pierce said the hassle is worth it.
"I see it as a love letter to the community for voting the sales tax in," Lima said. "It's a thank you."
The "Curate My Community" program has big benefits for the Museum Center, too.
For one, the places that are providing new, temporary locations for the exhibits are helping the Museum Center with storage during Union Terminal's renovation, Pierce said.
The public displays also serve as a reminder to the community about the role the Museum Center plays in telling the story of Cincinnati's history, even while so much of the facility is closed during the renovation.
"It's about, don't forget about what we do and the value and impact we have in the community," Pierce said.
The Museum Center won't charge people to see the polar bear or Allosaurus of any of the other exhibits that are being moved as part of "Curate My Community."
But Pierce said she expects the program to pay off by showing people who have never been to the Museum Center some of the exhibits it has to offer. And when the time comes for private fundraising to help pay for moving the exhibits back into Union Terminal, Pierce said she hopes "Curate My Community" will help in that regard, too.
In addition to the Allosaurus and the polar bear at the library, other exhibits will be on display at Mount St. Joseph University, the University of Cincinnati and the Greater Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, among many others.
The airport, in fact, will be the temporary home of 90 exhibits in all. The Museum Center already has three classic automobiles on display there and will display a 1937 airplane there, too.
Around November, many of the Ice Age animal casts from the popular Ice Cave exhibit at the Museum of Natural History & Science popular will move to the airport, too, Jensen said, along with Neil Armstrong's reproduction space suit, some meteorites, a totem pole and the museum's giant slab of redwood.
"They are ginormous things," Pierce said.
And the items going to the airport have great local connections, Lima added.
"People coming through the airport will suddenly understand something about the city of Cincinnati," she said. "They'll be travelers in the know."
Most important to Jensen, though, is that "Curate My Community" will scream loud and clear that Cincinnati Museum Center is still operating and still doing programming.
The Duke Energy Children's Museum and the Museum's special exhibit space will be open for business during the renovation project, too.
"We can't disappear," Jensen said. "We have to be visible. Without that, what happens when we do move back in?"
Have Dinosaur, Will Travel
Moving everything back to Union Terminal when the renovation is completed was not top of mind for Glenn Storrs and Fred Moore as they began to reassemble the 200 bones of the Museum Center's Allosaurus on Tuesday.
Both Storrs, the Museum Center's associate vice president for collections research and Withrow Farny curator of vertebrate paleontology, and Moore, a Museum Center volunteer, helped assemble the Allosaurus the first time around in 2007.
It took years to prepare the dinosaur's bones for that first installation. Half of the bones are real fossils, and the other half are replicated from another Allosaurus skeleton. Once all the pieces were ready, it took several months to assemble, Storrs said.
This time around, it took a day to take the exhibit apart, he said, and he expects it to take several days to put back together — something Storrs said he never thought he would have to do after it was finally assembled back in 2007.
"I thought maybe we would move it to another room of the museum," he said.
But taking the Allosaurus to the library never occurred to him.
It has been helpful to have Moore involved again, Storrs said. And although Moore never expected to help assemble the Allosaurus again, he said he's happy to be involved.
"I was excited it could be displayed somewhere else and be seen by a lot of people who might not otherwise get to see it," Moore said.
That, after all, is what "Curate My Community" is all about.
For more information about "Curate My Community," click here.
Lucy May writes about the people, places and issues that define our region – to celebrate what makes the Tri-State great and also shine a spotlight on issues we need to address. To read more stories by Lucy, go to www.wcpo.com/may. To reach her, email email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @LucyMayCincy.