Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Well It's Not Going to be Overnight

There are some things that sort of step out of the realm of description. I can't say "defy description" because you can certain describe what's happening. It's just that superlatives seem inadequate for what's going on.

The National Czech & Slovak Museum & Library in Cedar Rapids, Iowa was greatly impacted by the June 2008 floods. When the Cedar River crested at a little over 31 feet, the museum, located along the banks of said river, was under water. The museum and its collections sustained over $11 million worth of damage.

They decided they needed to be prepared for the next 500 year flood. Their solution was to relocate to higher ground adjacent to the current museum. But what to do with the current building. It's beautiful, a Cedar Rapids landmark, dedicated in 1995 by Presidents Bill Clinton, Vaclav Havel of the Czech Republic and Michal Kovac of the Slovak Republic. The museum decided to move it.

Now, you've no doubt seen videos of moving a house or a historic structure. I think there is even a stop motion video somewhere of moving the U-505 at the Museum of Science and Industry from the banks of Lake Michigan to its home behind the museum in 1954. This is a bit different. The sheer size of the building, 1400+ tons, is what makes this an incredible undertaking.

The building has been jacked up to rest 6 feet off the ground. In doing this, engineers discovered one part of the building is 53 tons heavier than the rest. There has been the soaking rains of a very wet spring to contend with. The building is going to be moved up a ramp, over to its new location and then raised again 12 feet onto its new foundation.

My mother's mother's family is of Czechoslovakian origin. My grandmother grew up within the Czech enclave around 16th street in Cedar Rapids. While she never lived to see the museum open, her Czech culture was a part of her life. We visited the museum shortly after it opened. It's a source of pride to my mother.

One of the best things they did was provide a web cam where you can view this move. It starts today and the camera gives you a view of how much work has gone into getting the building ready. After you've watched people walk around for awhile and not really seen much evidence of a move, spend some time poking around in the web site. There is a great deal of information about the how-tos of moving a building as well as information on the museum itself.

Beverage:  English Breakfast tea


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