On Campus

The Big Cats of the MOA


By Alf Pratte

The floor of the BYU Museum of Art was built to hold heavy things, says Paul Anderson, the head of exhibition development at the museum. Yet when museum officials decided to bring in the Imperial Tombs of China exhibit with its two monstrous lions (see the cover of BYM’s August 1995 issue), Anderson was a little worried.

“Each one of the lions weighs about as much as three or four cars,” says Anderson of the 9-foot-tall guardians to the exhibit. Imported from the Forbidden City in Beijing where they stood as sentinels for about 200 years, the two lions together weigh just under 20 tons and are made of solid stone.stone lion

Bringing the two lions into the museum and placing them on the floor was a daunting task for Anderson. After considering several locations, he finally decided on a spot where the floor seemed to be strongest. But then, the exhibit designer says, it occurred to him to check what would be one level below the lions.

“Then it dawned on me,” says Anderson, who was sitting in his museum office at the time, “I’m right under that!”

Upon realizing his plight, Anderson made sure the engineers did a good job of placing and supporting the two lions. The statues sit on a platform of three steel I beams that help distribute the weight across the floor–“my ceiling, its floor,” Anderson adds.

So far, the lions haven’t caused any problems. Sitting comfortably at his desk below the monstrous beasts, Anderson remarks hopefully, “I haven’t heard any funny noises over my head.”

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