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Museum’s moving day three years in making

Oana Capota, the curator at the New Westminster Museum and Archives, checks the Dufferin coach, which will be moved from its current home to permanent display at the new Anvil Centre next week. The coach will be moved through the window at the archives, behind Irving House, then lifted by crane onto a flatbed truck for transport. The delicate process will take three days. - MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER
Oana Capota, the curator at the New Westminster Museum and Archives, checks the Dufferin coach, which will be moved from its current home to permanent display at the new Anvil Centre next week. The coach will be moved through the window at the archives, behind Irving House, then lifted by crane onto a flatbed truck for transport. The delicate process will take three days.
— image credit: MARIO BARTEL/NEWSLEADER

Oana Capota has been preparing for moving day for three years.

But she’s not packing silverware and appliances for transfer to a new condo.

The curator of the New Westminster Museum and Archives is responsible for safely transporting more than 35,000 precious artifacts of the city’s past from their bunker-like home behind Irving House to new digs in the gleaming Anvil Centre on Columbia Street.

The first 123 items that will be on public display in the museum’s new home, as well as items from the Canadian Lacrosse Hall of Fame, were trucked Downtown by a specialized moving company on Wednesday.

The remaining 35,700 artifacts that comprise the archive’s collection will be moved in the coming months as special climate-controlled storage facilities in the Anvil Centre come available.

Those artifacts range from a tiny 3,000-year-old arrowhead to the massive Dufferin carriage that’s had a place of pride in the museum’s front window for years.

The bright red carriage was built in San Francisco to be used by the Governor General, Lord and Lady Dufferin, for a tour of British Columbia in 1876. It subsequently fell into private hands before it was rescued from a farmer’s field in the 1920s.

After some restoration work, it went into service through the 1940s and ‘50s for parades and various civic functions like May Day.

Getting the coach to the Anvil Centre will be a three-day effort that begins Monday when it will be jacked up to clear the lower sill of its enclosure at the museum. The big glass window will be removed so the coach can be rolled out of the building, then lifted by a crane onto the back of a flatbed truck.

After it arrives at the Anvil Centre, it will then be rolled from the loading bay to its permanent display place.

Fortunately for Capota, not all the artifacts are so large and complex to move.

But they all required a great deal of care and preparation.

That process began three years ago when she was hired as the museum’s new curator in late 2011.

Since then Capota and her staff have been fastidiously cataloguing each artifact, researching them to find out their stories and their connection to the community, so she can share those stories on their accompanying placards at the Anvil Centre.

“We want to give people more information than just a label,” she said.

Each artifact has been individually wrapped in polyethylene foam and packed into acid-free banker’s boxes.

Jack Lubzinski’s scale model of the Pattullo Bridge, which he built when he was a high school student in the 1940s and helped restore last year, has been divided into four sections, each packed into a large protective wooden crate and wrapped in heavy plastic.

A Model T car in the archives’ basement has been tarped and put up on casters to be rolled out through a back door. As long as it fits.

“They got it in here,” said Capota, hopefully.

But she’s leaving that kind of heavy lifting to the professional movers who have plenty of experience handling historic and fragile artifacts.

Once the display items have been moved, Capota will have a little more than a week to organize and set them up for the Anvil Centre’s grand opening on Sept. 14.

The new displays, which were designed by renowned Vancouver design house Public Design, will allow visitors new ways to see many of the old artifacts.

“There will be a few more bells and whistles to show the artifacts off,” said Capota.

“It gives them a new life.”

 

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