Canoe 1994, canoe 2018: On the left, the canoe is being delivered in 1994. Photo courtesy of University of Michigan Museum of Natural History. On the right, the canoe is being taken out in 2018. Photo by Nathan Carrillo.

On November 5, 2018, one of the final artifacts moved out of the Ruthven Museums Building: a 21-foot-long dugout canoe, which had been on display on the fourth floor as part of the Museum of Natural History. Jim Peshegoba, from Hubbard Lake in Alcona County, Michigan, carved it more than 100 years ago.

At 353 pounds, the canoe was too unwieldy to carry down three flights of stairs. It was too long to fit in the elevator. How did it get into the building in the first place? In 1994, when it was brought back to Ruthven after being on display at the Detroit Historical Society for 45 years, it was lifted by crane through a fourth-floor window.

During that move, the bottom portion of the window was removed. The canoe was lifted up without support—suspended by straps wrapped around it—in order to fit through the window. The move was successful, but the straps left impressions in the old wood.

This time, collection managers Lauren Fuka and Jim Moss wanted to avoid any damage to the canoe. A custom steel pallet was built to hold the canoe, distribute its weight, and help support it during the lift.

However, even with the entire window removed, the crane attachment barely fit through the opening and could not fully reach the center of the pallet. Once it was lifted off of the floor, the canoe had to be centered to balance the weight. The crane also had to be repositioned further back, in order to get the full length of the canoe out the window. The work was slow going. The professional riggers of CMF Group moved the boom inches at a time until it was clear of the building. To keep the canoe from twisting in the wind, handlers on the ground held ropes that had been anchored to the pallet. 

After three hours of work, the canoe was finally placed safely into a truck and delivered to its new home at the Research Museums Center. There it will be conserved and preserved for future generations to enjoy. 

The photos below document the move at various stages, from preparation to delivery.

Corrigan Moving Systems preparators Cecilia Cutrera and Jake Wells put the final touches on the canoe's padding to prepare it for the move. Photo by Jim Moss.

Canoe window exit: The canoe and its pallet are slowly taken out through the window, several inches at a time. Photo by Jim Moss.

Canoe descending: After three hours of preparation and one false start, the canoe is finally lowered to the ground. Photo by Jim Moss.

The canoe is loaded onto a truck to be delivered to the Research Museums Center. Photo by Lauren Fuka.

The canoe in its new home at the Research Museums Center. Photo by Jim Moss.