At the museum’s entrance is a 40-foot-
by-19-foot (12-meter-by-6-meter) sculpture
of an undulating flag comprised of 960
polycarbonate panels that catch natural
light from the atrium.
At first, Mr. Haney envisioned the
“waving flag” as a large-scale sculpture
of metal strips, but discovered through
real and computer models that it would
be far too heavy to hang. Back at the
drawing board, he came up with the high-tech version.
A NATURAL TRANSITION
The commission suggested the Star-Spangled Banner be showcased in the center of the museum, but the flag’s condition
required that it be kept in dark quarters. That meant the project team had to design a way for visitors to seamlessly transition between the bright atrium and the flag’s dark viewing room.
“The other challenge associated with this was more physiological,” Mr. Haney says. “You have daylight on the National
Mall outside, daylight in the center of the museum, so how do you lead people into this dark chamber? So we designed this
path that gradually darkens as you approach the flag, and then the eyes have a chance to adjust and see something lit with
the equivalent of only 1 foot ( 30 centimeters) of candlelight.”
FROM DISPLAY CASE TO STORAGE
Before the revamp project could launch, museum staff had to
move items from exhibition areas to newly built storage
rooms just beyond the construction area.
“Three months before demolition began, the museum
closed to the public, allowing the museum to work with
Turner to protect the largest objects which remained in situ,”
says Mr. Ladden. That list included a gunboat from the
American Revolution, an 18-ton sculpture of the first U.S.
president George Washington and the oldest working steam
locomotive in the United States.
The artifacts—including Dorothy’s ruby slippers from the
1939 film The Wizard of Oz—were then sealed in enormous
wooden boxes lined with monitors and vibration sensors that
tracked the conditions inside.
AN UNFORTUNATE DISCOVERY
Once the construction team started dismantling parts of the
museum, it discovered lead paint in the elevator shafts and
asbestos in the ceiling.
Government-appointed contractors swooped in with masks
and protective suits to address the problems, delaying the
project’s completion by several months, says Mr. Haney.