Healing Totem Journey

A chronicle of the creation of the NLM Healing Totem and Journey.

Archive for the ‘How the NLM healing totem is installed’ Category

Guest Blog – Installation of the Healing Totem at NLM

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The totem pole is lifted from the flatbed truck, suspended horizontally.    Bethesda, MD. (October 2, 2011) - The healing totem was raised in the herb garden in front of the National Library of Medicine (NLM). Some clouds and rain did not dampen the spirit and enthusiasm of the people that gathered to bring the healing totem to its final home.   The installation included those who traveled with the healing totem during its 5000 mile journey to NLM and persons who attended to welcome the totem to NLM .

The totem is lifted upright with a crane.

The day started early in the morning with the arrival of the NLM Exhibitions Program team, NLM Building Operations, and the Bonsai Fine Arts installation crew who began preparing the site for the installation.  Joining with the artist, Jewell James and his team, the fine arts installation crew carefully prepared the healing totem for removal from the truck.  The totem was wrapped in blankets to protect its painted and carved surface, strapped securely, and with the help of a 95 foot crane slowly lifted from its horizontal position on the truck to a vertical upright position.

The totem is moved over the herb garden under a cloudy sky.

It looked beautiful against the blue and cloudy sky.  Then, the totem was carefully walked across the herb garden, positioned above its metal bracket, and slowly lowered into place.

Following the placement of the healing totem, a prayer ceremony was held for all who were part of the journey and a part of the installation of the totem.  A prayer was given by Emerson Gorman asking permission of the ground and the spirits to place the healing totem on this spot.

participants stand around the totem, standing on its base during a prayer ceremony.

Prayer ceremony after the healing totem installation.

A sense of peace, happiness and completion was felt by all who attended and participated.  The healing totem’s journey came full circle from its beginnings in Semiahmoo, Washington to its final home at NLM.

a group of people stand in front of the totem posing.

Artist Jewell James with the NLM Exhibition Program staff, NLM Building Operations, Bonsai and Fine Arts Specialists installation crew.

Jill Newmark

Exhibition Registrar

National Library of Medicine

Photos by Deshaun Williams

Written by Circulating Now

October 4, 2011 at 5:44 pm

Update on installation of the healing totem at NLM – 4

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Last week the final concrete work was done on the plaza and supports for the totem plus the two carved benches that will be installed in October.  In the picture below you can see the pedestal on which the totem will be mounted and the bolts for fastening the benches.

A newly poured concrete plaza with a central pedestal surrounded by caution tape.

The final concrete pour is complete.

This week the riggers made an initial visit (in the rain) to inspect the plaza and review the site to determine how their equipment must be positioned.  The riggers will transfer the totem from a flatbed truck to the plaza and secure it in place. We hope for better weather when the big day comes.

Written by Circulating Now

September 7, 2011 at 3:57 pm

Update on installation of the healing totem at NLM – 3

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Preparation of the installation site for the totem is proceeding rapidly, and it’s very exciting to see all our plans become literally concrete.  This week workers dug out the hole about 6 feet deep, finding a mysterious shoe in the process.  Next they shaped the hole and placed the reinforcing rebar. Finally, they poured the main concrete footing.  Below are a few images of the work.  In the last you can see the rebar cylinder that will reinforce the concrete pedestal to which the totem will be attached. Great work guys!

preparing the way for the concrete truck 

a close up view of the rebar supports for the totem footing

Workers begin pouring the concrete into the prepared hole.

the site at the completion of the footing with exposed rear supports for the future pedestal

Pour Complete!

Written by Circulating Now

August 16, 2011 at 5:59 pm

Update on installation of the healing totem at NLM – 2

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At the conclusion of the Totem’s 5000 mile journey across the country it will be installed adjacent to the National Library of Medicine’s existing herb garden on the edge of the NIH campus. The garden is filled with medicinal herbs and painstakingly tended by dedicated local volunteers from The Potomac Unit of the Herb Society of America. The totem, along with two carved benches on a new plaza, will be placed between the garden and the fence shown here in the background.

Three people stand at the center of a formal herb garden on the edge of the NIH campus
Beth Mullen (left) and Dylan Raintree (center) show Carver Jewell James (right) the NLM herb garden, where the totem will be installed.

In preparation, the herb garden will get a general sprucing up with refinished benches and new side plantings.

Preparation of the site for the totem’s installation is accelerating.  All the designs, soil tests, engineering calculations, and approvals are in. All the paperwork is signed and we’re scheduled to break ground this week. Stay tuned for more updates as the foundation for the totem is laid.

Written by Circulating Now

August 9, 2011 at 10:42 am

Update on installation of the healing totem at NLM – 1

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a hand-drawn rough sketch with calculations on graph paper

Figure A

Installing a healing totem is a big job and it takes many players to cover all the bases. We’ve been working on these from first concepts, through engineering and landscape design to near completion for almost 11 months now. We’re 15 weeks out from the installation in October and the design for the plaza, lighting, and support for the totem are at 95% completion!  This near final round has gone up through various levels of review and approval at NIH, and is moving into contracting.  We’re on our way to making a concept a reality!

Figure A: Engineering calculations to ensure that the totem will withstand earthquakes and hurricanes.


a CAD elevation drawing showing plans for the installation of the totem

Figure B

Figure B: Design elevation of the totem installed in the herb garden

Written by nlmral

June 29, 2011 at 5:52 pm


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