As the Bath House building housing Rotorua Museum celebrates its 109th birthday some of the museum's most precious inhabitants have moved out - after months of planning.

The iconic marble sculptures that have been housed at the building for more than 100 years have been safely moved into storage.

The planning around how to safely move the 10 heavy yet fragile sculptures started long before completion of the comprehensive assessment which found Rotorua Museum fell below earthquake safety standards.

Contractors secure crane fastenings on the sculptures.
Contractors secure crane fastenings on the sculptures.

Rotorua Museum exhibition lead Susan Skellern said the historically significant sculptures were among the last artworks to be moved out of the damaged part of the museum.

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"Because of the weight of the sculptures [the heaviest at nearly 2 tonnes] and the issues around floor loading in the museum foyer, we had to enlist the expertise of building and engineering specialists to work with conservators and our museum team to carry out this project."

Flora is moved by pallet mover.
Flora is moved by pallet mover.

Engineers GDC designed a timber floor pathway to spread the weight of the sculptures and moving machines. The path needed to enable the large sculptures to be turned in confined spaces and allow for their removal through the museum foyer and front doors. The extraction path also had to follow the foundation structure located below in the basement.

Specialist sculpture and artwork moving company Rich Riggers, from Auckland, were contracted to assess the weight and dimensions of each sculpture and to determine the most appropriate machinery to move each one, based on maximum loading in that area.

Expert conservators Detlef Klein and Marco Bürger helped develop the detailed work plan for the extraction process and the design of individual storage crates unique to each sculpture. The crates are made of untreated timber and include special archival foam packing to restrict any movement. Once the sculptures were packed, each crate had to be wrapped in a plastic that allows for air ventilation.

A specially made crate goes around Eve before transporting.
A specially made crate goes around Eve before transporting.

Local builders spent weeks making the specially designed crates and laying the flooring
pad in preparation for moving day.

On Thursday and Friday the teams and Rotorua Museum's own collection experts came together to put months of research and planning into action. All 10 marble sculptures were safely moved to the Rotorua Museum off-site storage facility.

Rotorua Museum collections lead Cat Jehly said it was important to preserve these iconic sculptures.

"As well as being a well-known feature in the Bath House building for more than 100 years, this is the world's largest collection of sculptures by father and son artists Charles Francis Summers Senior and Junior."

Made from Italian Carrara marble, these works were bought when the Bath House opened in 1908 to add to the feeling of grandeur and opulence in the Elizabethan building.

Moving time.
Moving time.

The neo-classical sculptures have adorned the hallways of the Bath House building since its days as a medical facility, through the Tudor Towers era as a restaurant and nightclub, and as an important part of the art gallery and museum.

Rotorua Lakes Council arts and culture director Stewart Brown said the removal was carried out without any hitches thanks to the detailed planning and care taken by all involved.

"Most of the taonga in compromised areas of the museum were moved a long time ago but due to the complexity of the process, the Summers' Sculptures have had to remain in place until now. It is great to now have them safely stored."