Past Forward

Activating The Henry Ford Archive of Innovation

“Tuning” the Dymaxion House

February 13, 2012 Archive Insight

“You must be this small to enter.” How many times do you hear that in the workplace?

This week, our historic operating machinery specialist, Tim Brewer, and I have been squeezing between tie-down cables and sliding around underneath R. Buckminster Fuller's "house of the future," the Dymaxion House. We were part of the original team that restored this unique prototype and built it inside Henry Ford Museum.

The Dymaxion House conservation team, circa 2001 - I'm the one sitting on the step ladder, and Tim is just behind and to the right of me.

Now, for the first time since it opened in October 2001, we have closed the house to the public; this shutdown will be for as brief a time as possible - we promise! - but it is essential to ensure the long-term preservation of the structure. (In the meantime, you can still view the exhibit and the exterior of the house from the platform.)

So what exactly is happening to the Dymaxion House during this time?

This extraordinary structure really does hang from the mast, with a cabled hoop (“cage”) system that the exterior wall “skin” floats on. We are using laser-levels to assess the relative movement of components in the cage system.

In addition, the flooring system (or deck) is made of hollow aluminum “beams,” with plywood attached with clip strips of bent aluminum. Right now we are determining the extent of wear on the deck  after 10 years of relatively trouble-free service.

As expected, we are finding more deterioration in the flooring path where visitors walk through the artifact, and we’ll be working hard over the next little while to repair any damages so our favorite house can delight the public for years to come. More details to come in a future post!

Senior Conservator Clara Deck has been a conservator at The Henry Ford for 20 years. Preserving the material integrity of the objects is her job - but making them look great is icing on the cake.

Additional Readings:

#Behind The Scenes @ The Henry Ford, Henry Ford Museum, conservation, collections care, by Clara Deck, Dymaxion House, Buckminster Fuller

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