The next time you enter the Grand Lobby of the museum, make sure you cast your eyes upwards. In one of the openings in the old brick façade you will find two newly on view objects. They are a Pair of Bronze Owls, two of twenty-two, which originally stood along the roof line of the old Herald Tribune building when it was built in 1893. At that time the owls eyes were electrified, blinking on and off. The owls were created by sculptor Antonin Jean Paul Carles. When the building was torn down in the 1920’s, the owls, Minerva and the Bell Ringers were given to NYU. The latter two sculptures and two owls with outstretched wings were loaned to the city in 1940 for display in Herald Square, where they remain today. The two owls that entered the Brooklyn Museum in 1971 are also on long-term loan from NYU.
To prepare for installation, the owls were first cleaned with a soft brush and vacuum to remove surface dust and then with a detergent and water to remove the more tenacious grime.
Before the owls were placed into the brickwork they were secured to a mounting board for safe transport and installation. Since the owls weigh in at 251 and 232 pounds they had to first be rigged onto their respect mounting boards. Soldered brass mounts were then created to secure the owls to the boards.
Finally it was time to install the owls. The mounted owls were secured to a forklift and then gently lifted to their new location. Once in position the owls were secured in place to the brickwork.
Jakki Godfrey is an assistant conservator of objects at the Brooklyn Museum. She received her Master's Degree in Conservation from the Winterthur / University of Delaware Program in Art Conservation. Before working at Brooklyn she interned at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of African Art in Washington, DC, the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco and the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam.