The Academy’s largest research department, Entomology, has been playing a complex game of leapfrog with their research specimens and cabinets. They have 14.5 million insects and arachnids in the collection – housed primarily in 450 9-foot-tall white cabinets (below, left). The catch is that all those cabinets had to be emptied before going into moving trucks, which posed quite a logistical challenge.
32,000 wooden drawers full of pinned specimens (above, center) take up a lot of room – you can’t just set them all aside while you move all the cabinets. So, instead they’ve been doing it in waves: move some cabinets, move some insects, cabinets, insects, cabinets, insects…
Over the course of about 4 weeks, the wooden drawers were transferred from their white cabinets to metallic transport carts (above, right), and trucked over to Golden Gate Park in batches. And every other day, another 48 white cabinets were moved over. That way, when each batch of metallic transport carts wheeled into the new building, there were empty cabinets waiting to be filled up.
As of today, the bulk of the pinned specimens are safe and sound in their new home, while the butterflies, moths, and a sampling of beetles are patiently awaiting their turn to move.
The Academy is closed to the public right now, but behind the scenes, the action hasn’t slowed one bit during the move back to Golden Gate Park. If you’ve ever lugged a couch up two flights of stairs, spent hours carefully bubble-wrapping your grandmother’s china, or wrestled with where to put everything in a new home, then you can appreciate what the Academy is up against: moving 20 million delicate scientific specimens, and thousands of slippery, feathered and scaly live animals from downtown San Francisco to a brand new building in Golden Gate Park. How will we do it? “Very, very carefully.”
As soon as the doors closed at 5 pm on January 6th, the museum lobby at 875 Howard Street was transformed into a staging area for the movers – the massive admissions desk literally disappeared overnight – poof! The following morning, instead of school groups, the lobby was filled with 9-foot-tall cabinets on rolling carts, waiting for the first moving truck to pull up. And so began the most massive museum move on record…
In the lobby, a gray whale skeleton peeks out above rows of empty cabinets from the Botany department – among the first items to move to Golden Gate Park. And the former Academy Café, now a staging area during the move, hosts a table for two (cabinets).