Today, we’re excited to present a sneak peek of the installation of the mosaic floor panels in the ROM’s new Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Gallery of Byzantium, opening July 1, 2011.
The Roman floor mosaic is composed of four large panels each weighing almost 630 kg (1,500 lbs). Each panel, none of which are perfectly rectangular, is hung with custom-made steel mount that will hold over 30 times that weight. To align the panels and preserve the pattern of the mosaic’s geometric design, separate templates of each piece are positioned on the wall before the frames are installed. The wall has been marked with a grid to show the location of the reinforcing bars within the concrete so that the drill does not hit steel framework and compromise the strength of the wall.
The panels are lifted using a pulley system secured to a steel beam running along the top of the wall. While moving the panel, padding is laid so the pulley’s chains do not damage the mosaic and the artifact is manually secured to prevent any swinging during the move.
The mosaic is composed of hundreds of thousands of small ceramic tiles. Before the panels are moved, conservators apply a layer of strong fibrous tissue-like paper to each panel to keep the tiles in place should any of them come loose. Once the preparators have locked all four panels in place, the paper cover will carefully be removed and any necessary repairs will be made.
To add to the complications of this delicate installation, each panel is slightly flexible. While some movement is inevitable during mount, preparators are careful to keep the panels as flat as possible to minimize the danger of loosening the tiles.