A few of the 54 spears and other long-handled weapons, mostly from the Philippines, that are now stored on horizontal racks at RMC. At Kipke, these polearms were stored vertically, which concentrated all the weight on one end. Photo by Kerri Wilhelm.

From now until spring 2018, movers will carefully pack three million artifacts from the UMMAA (from both Ruthven and Kipke), load them onto trucks, and unpack them at their new home at the Research Museums Center (formerly called Varsity Drive) in south Ann Arbor. Keep track of the progress with our bimonthly updates. 

During a mild November, the Corrigan movers had to dodge raindrops but not snowflakes, and after six months, the move is on schedule. 

According to Lauren Fuka, collections manager at Ruthven, “The move of collections in Asia Range started in early October and is well underway. They have already packed and moved about 8 cabinets out of 18, which is approximately 100 drawers of artifacts—mostly ceramics, although there are some glass, metal, and shell artifacts as well.”

There are many delicate porcelain objects in the Asia collection, and such fragile items require special care and attention. In addition, there are some tiny artifacts that need extra protection.

“Josh and Sarah created “cells” inside the box, and added batting so that small items have little “nests” to keep them safe during transit,” Lauren explained.

During the move, artifacts are carefully tracked so that they end up in the right place. There are collections within the collection, and these must be kept together. One of these is the Williams Collection: ceramics collected by Gerhard Mennen “Soapy” Williams, six-term governor of Michigan (1949–1961) and U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines (1968–69).

It’s likely that the movers will need all of December and possibly part of January to finish moving the Asia collection from the Ruthven building to the Research Museums Center (RMC). In the meantime, Lauren and her team are getting the artifacts in the Great Lakes Range ready to move. 

The team at Kipke has also been busy, reported collections manager Kerri Wilhelm.

In the first half of November, the Corrigan team packed and moved 1,450 ethnographic objects from Kipke to RMC. But December 1 was the big day—literally.

“They transferred all six oversized crated objects,” Kerri wrote in an email. “Including two canoes, a coffin, a suit of samurai armor, and a large Greenland Inuit kayak made of wood and hide.” 

Movers tackled another group of large artifacts, called polearms (spears, pikes, etc.), in October. There were 54 polearms, mostly Philippine in origin, explained Kerri.

“The plan was to take the polearms from their current vertically positioned housing, which focuses all of the weight of the object onto the small footprint of the butt of the spear, and place them onto wall-mounted racking horizontally to better spread the weight across several points of contact. Corrigan used extra-dense, reinforced cardboard boxes with custom-cut ethafoam supports to stabilize the polearms on their short trip to the Research Museum Center.”

Sarah and Josh carefully pack small ceramic artifacts from the Asia collection at Ruthven. Photo by Lauren Fuka.

In late October, the team packed and moved this 19th-century Qing Dynasty oxblood red vase. Gary and Josh carved ethafoam to make a supportive cradle for the vase, to keep it stable in its new drawer at RMC. Photo by Lauren Fuka.

According to the Kipke catalog entry, University of Michigan naturalist Walter Koelz used this kayak, called an "Akumadingwa" in Inuit, during the Macmillan Expedition to the Arctic in 1925. Made of wood and stitched animal hide. Photo by Kerri Wilhelm.

Student workers are a big part of the move: at Kipke, they make custom archival mounts for the more delicate artifacts, including these Asian ceramic figures. Photo by Kerri Wilhelm.