Calvin Preps For The Petra Exhibit

February 21, 2005
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GRAND RAPIDS — Phil Beezhold just became a very busy man.

On the heels of the Dead Sea Scrolls exhibit at the Grand Rapids Public Museum last year, Calvin College will host "Petra: Lost City of Stone" April 4 to Aug. 15 at its Prince Conference Center.

The exhibit is a partnership between the Cincinnati Art Museum, the American Museum of Natural History in New York and Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan. It features more than 200 Middle Eastern antiquities and artifacts — some weighing up to 2,200 pounds.

As director of the physical plant for Calvin, Beezhold has been tasked with getting the two-year-old Prince Center ready for the show, and he's got just about another week to do it.

"The Prince Center is an active conference center," Beezhold said. "And they were trying to maintain their business for as long as they could."

Beezhold's 25-person crew took over the facility last weekend and is now racing to finish the 3,000-hour, $400,000 project by the time the first phase of installation begins this week.

"They're antiquities. They're 2,000 years old and they require precise heat and humidification," Beezhold said. "The conference center was not built for those kind of parameters."

A new HVAC system that will control and monitor atmospheric conditions has already been installed — along with a primary and backup climate control system.

"From a mechanical standpoint, we have to change all the systems in the building," Beezhold said.

During the next week, the largest concern will be lighting.

The conference center uses windows for natural lighting along with fluorescent lighting. But because the ultraviolet rays produced by sunlight and fluorescents can damage the artifacts, a layer of dimmable, incandescent lighting will be installed.

The softer lights also will add to the theatrical appearance of the exhibit and spotlight individual pieces. Windows — including a set of 20-foot-high clerestory windows in the exhibit's first gallery — will be blacked out.

In order to maintain the integrity of the center, 10-foot walls will be installed around the perimeter of the 7,000-square-foot exhibition. These walls can be painted to match the exhibit, keeping the Prince Center's wallpaper intact.

Much of the carpet has been replaced to match the exhibit as well, and new security systems have been installed.

The display cases, mounts and interpretive panels will arrive late this week. The artifacts will not arrive in Grand Rapids until the week of March 7.

Since the Prince Center will not be hosting any other events until the exhibition has concluded in August, Calvin is installing a 60-by-90 foot tent in the parking lot to host campus and outside events.    

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