Shattered 500-year-old statue made whole again

Shattered masterpiece at the Met repaired aft... 03:35

The Metropolitan Museum of Art has a collection of over 2 million works of art, including the newly reconstructed Tullio Lombardo statue of Adam. The 15th century statue went back on display in New York Tuesday after an accident that occurred more than a decade ago.

Museum officials have called it one of the most important Italian Renaissance sculptures in North America, so when it crashed to the ground there was no doubt they would try to rebuild him, reports CBS News correspondent Michelle Miller.

From a distance it's hard to tell the life-sized statue of Adam was once reduced to a pile of marble.

"It looked like a broken body all over the floor and it was a very difficult thing to see," museum conservator Carolyn Riccardelli said.

The wooden pedestal used to support the 770 pound sculpture suddenly buckled, sending it smashing into the ground one night when the museum was closed.

But not once did Riccardelli think it was over for Adam.

"I always knew we could fix it," Riccardelli said.

Riccardelli and her colleagues treated the debris field like a crime scene, mapping and bagging even the tiniest fragments.

From there, they used modern technology to figure out how to rebuild the 500-year-old statue, searching for the strongest adhesives and pinning materials along the way.

"What's holding it all together in fact is an acrylic adhesive," Riccardelli explained. "It doesn't yellow over time and it's very stable."

And she assured it will withstand the test of time.

"It'll last as long as any us will be alive," she said. "In fact, beyond our lives."

Time-lapse video captured the painstaking project, including the moment the final piece was put into place.

"It was amazing to put the head back on," Riccardelli said. "When the arms went on, it took on a whole level and then when the head went on -- I knew it was going be great but I had no idea how much better it would look."

12 years later, and a one-of-a-kind face-lift, Adam is once again ready for public display.

This time it will be showcasing a work of art within a work of art.

"The thing I love is that when you get up close you can actually see the cracks," Riccardelli said. "That's the beauty of a really balanced conservation treatment. When you're very close, you can see the work; when you step away it disappears."

The accident served as a wake-up call for the museum.

Adam now sits on a steel pedestal and officials said they've evaluated all the pedestals in the building, and if something wasn't stable, it was either reinforced or replaced.