Workers used a forklift to slowly haul the 14,000-pound sculpture out of the lobby in two pieces. A heavy crane then hoisted each piece onto a flatbed truck, destined for a storage facility.
The sculpture, known as "Movement to Overcome," was relocated to make room for crews remodeling and renovating the 21-year-old museum.
The museum is located at the site of the old Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in 1968. It chronicles the civil rights movement's history through films, informative displays and exhibits. It attracts about 200,000 people annually.
The sculpture is 14 feet tall and depicts a long line of people climbing a mountain, in honor of those who participated in the civil rights movement.
The museum has raised almost $22 million to pay for renovations that include updating existing exhibits and enlarging the lobby.
Renovations are expected to be completed in early 2014. The museum's main building is closed, but a separate building across the street and the balcony where King was shot are open to visitors.
National Civil Rights Museum: http://www.civilrightsmuseum.org/